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The Time Jumpers

Kid Sister – 2016 (Rounder)

Reviewed by John Lupton

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CDs by The Time Jumpers

After more than a decade as perhaps the most wildly successful "pickup band" in the long history of country music, the Time Jumpers released their self-titled first studio effort in 2012 (there had been a couple of previous live discs) to enthusiastic reviews. Their plans for a follow-up release were sidetracked when their sterling lead female vocalist Dawn Sears began a 2-year struggle with cancer that she finally lost in December 2014. As the only woman in the cast of a dozen of Nashville's top rank of side musicians and session stars, Sears was the "Kid Sister" to whom this new release is lovingly dedicated.

Fittingly, the disc opens with a pair of tracks remaining from previous sessions highlighting her distinctive talent. "My San Antonio Rose" (not the same song as the Bob Wills classic "New San Antonio Rose") is a duet with husband Kenny Sears, one of the band's trio of swing fiddlers, while "I Miss You" features her backing up Vince Gill on a prototypical tear jerking "love lost" tune. While a band that still boasts vocalists of the caliber of Gill, Kenny Sears and "Ranger Doug" Green isn't exactly about to fade into obscurity, this pair of cuts demonstrates in bittersweet fashion just how great a loss Dawn Sears is.

The stock in trade of The Time Jumpers, of course, remains the vibrant mix of classic Wills-style Western Swing with hard-core Nashville honky tonk, and there's plenty of both here. The self-referential "We're The Time Jumpers" seems in fact to be a tip of the hat to Wills' "Texas Playboy Theme" ("we're the Texas Playboys, from the Lone Star State"), and the instrumental "All Aboard" serves as an object lesson as to why Paul Franklin is widely considered among the best pedal steel players of all time. "Table For Two" is another tale of heartache, and "I Hear You Talkin'" is a trip into the catalog of Cindy Walker and Faron Young. Closing the album out is the title song, an emotional testament to Dawn Sears, and while it's credited to Gill, it seems a pretty good bet that it speaks for all of her "big brothers."

The Time Jumpers is a band on a mission to preserve the finest traditions of country music, from Texas to Tennessee and anywhere else where there are still roadhouses and jukeboxes. Individually and collectively, they know and understand the music at a higher plane and deeper level, and it shows in every recording they make.