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Album Review

Saddle Cats, The – “Herdin’ Cats!” – [EastLight Records]

ArtCrimes   10/4/2011   CD, Country

Western swing revival acts can take many forms, from a stripped-down trio like Hot Club of Cowtown to bigger bands like Don Burnham’s Lost Weekend. ??The Saddle Cats run lean — a four piece plus a guest drummer for these sessions — but they wield a secret weapon — steel guitar master Bobby Black, a long time Nashville session player and former member of road warriors such as Commander Cody’s Lost Planet Airmen and Asleep at the Wheel, just to name a couple. ??Black lends authenticity to the overall sound here, with an eye to the past rather than an update of the western swing template. ??Bakersfield-bred Richard Chon leads the group and takes the lead vocal here on a few tracks (with instrumentals making up the rest of the repertoire), and he demonstrates exceptional taste in choosing western swing classics and obscurities, as well as appropriate jazz and pop standards. ??Chon plays the fiddle throughout and shares solos with Bobby on nearly every song. ??Although Bob Wills is a huge influence here, the Saddle Cats are a little less wild and know how to take their time, excelling especially on ballads like “Stardust”, where Black provides a master class in steel dynamics. — crimato

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