Album: What a Dream It's Been

Artist: Big Sandy and His Fly-Rite Boys

Label: Cow Island Music

Release Date: August 27, 2013

Big Sandy Aug 27



When your trademark is authentic recreations of various roots musics – rockabilly, western swing, country, doo-wop, etc. – it becomes a bold move to cover your own songs in completely different arrangements. Paying tribute to 25 years as a bandleader, Big Sandy (born Robert “Rusty” Williams) picked a dozen of his favorite cuts from previous albums, and stripped the band down to a tight four-piece strictly acoustic ensemble.

Thus, with no onus to sound like recordings from 50 or more years ago, the songwriting talents of Williams come to the forefront. “Missouri Gal” may have rocked harder when it originally appeared on the 1992 debut album Fly Right With . . . Big Sandy and the Fly-Rite Trio, but even acoustic guitars can pump up enough energy to underscore Sandy’s impassioned love for the gal in question. “Don’t Desert Me” goes from a rockabilly rave-up to a virtual duet between Sandy’s nuanced vocal and the simple bass pulses provided by Jeff West.

“Nothing to Lose,” an empathetic description of a woman driven to murder and suicide by an abusive husband, benefits the most from a new version. Not that there was anything wrong with the original honky-tonk take from Night Tide back in 2000. But switching it to a Tex-Mex ballad style emphasizes the chilling aspects of the tale, and gives Sandy a chance to show off even more vocal chops.

Oh, there are a couple of odd choices, most notably the decision to change the delicate doo wop of “Baby Baby Me” heard on 1998’s Dedicated to You into a less engaging lite reggae rhythm which goes on for twice as long as the original. For the most part, though, this serves as a lovely gift for long-time fans and an intriguing introduction to newbies. There’s plenty of time for them to catch the rip-roaring live show of this band. Right now, here’s a chance to fall in love with a talented songsmith.

DOWNLOAD: “Nothing to Lose,” “Missouri Gal,” “Parts Unknown.”

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