The Grandsons

Live at the Barns The Legendary Wolf Trap Recordings Volume One – 2002 (Whirling House)

Reviewed by Ken Burke

CDs by The Grandsons

The Washington, D.C. based Grandsons conjure the sort of subdued r&b-fed swing that the Bill Black Combo used to specialize in. Their relaxed rhythmic sense allows them to reconfigure a variety of genres into danceable grooves, but they never quite catch fire to provide a cathartic listening experience. Case in point? Their 4th release, a 15-song set recorded live in 2001.

Right from the get-go ("Rock Around The Clock" not the Bill Haley hit) the quartet lets you know they dig the Crescent City sound. Eric Bowers' dominant baritone sax work plays neatly off Alan MacEwen's guitar as they plow through several covers of classics originated by Fats Domino ("Let The Four Winds Blow," "I'm Gonna Be A Wheel"), Roy Hamilton ("Don't Let Go") and the Clovers ("On Mint Julep"). Indeed, their finest moments come via drolly executed excursions into r&b novelty ("Last Meal," "Short Order Fantasy").

Unfortunately, their renditions of ditties by the Kingston Trio ("Scotch & Soda"), the Louvin Brothers ("Cash On the Barrelhead"), and Harry Belafonte ("Jump In The Line") betray MacEwen's lack of vocal soul and much-needed spiritual abandon. What we're left with is a fun bar-band that occasionally sounds too hokey for it's own good. (The Grandsons)