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Croonin' Kurt & the Hi Geared Combo

Low Down Swing – 1999 (Echo-tone Music)

Reviewed by Stuart Munro

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CDs by Croonin' Kurt & the Hi Geared Combo

The Hi' Geared Combo are a Rochester, N.Y. outfit who morphed into the world of western swing and hillbilly boogie out of the more straight-ahead rockabilly group The Slippin' Slacks. Judging by this collection, they've made the transition well.

The band hasn't left rockabilly behind entirely, since they cover the likes of Don Feger ("Date on the Corner") and Curtis Gordon ("Rock & Roll Jump Jive Tonight"). But the twangier side of things is dominant, beginning with a faithful-to-the-original version of Bobby Sisco's "Honky Tonkin' Rhythm" and moving on to mainly covers - the band displays its good taste in including not one, but two songs by Smokey Wood and the Modern Mountaineers ("Who's Cryin' Sweet Papa Now" and "Low Down Swing," maybe the hottest tune here) - and a couple of old-style originals as well. The band is a four-piece (they've added a fifth player - a steel man - since this CD was made) and so, not surprisingly, has a lean sound in which the playing of guitar maestro Kinloch Nelson and the singing of aptly-nicknamed Croonin' Kurt Wilmarth predominate.

There've been a lot of western swing releases to choose from lately; don't overlook this one.