Songs Older Than Pappy
For this 2013 release, we took a Western Swing-flavored bite out of Americana with 10 really old songs, and 3 originals that fit in. Garrett Rittenberry (Guerilla Design) took some nice pics & made everything look pretty, and we got even further away from plastic by putting the disc in a 4-panel “eco-pack”. DIY was the order of the day — John did most of the recording, David and John mixed it, and David mastered it, though we had help from Paul Gannon, Jerry Gowen, Mark Howard, and Dave Martin.
Though we titled the album, “Songs Older than Pappy”, there are 3 originals on it, and “Pecos Bill” dates from the 40s, so those 4 are actually younger than Pappy!
“Pecos Bill”—Originally written for an animated Walt Disney movie, and performed by Roy Rogers and the Sons of the Pioneers, this is the big “production number” of the album. It’s our “Bohemian Rhapsody”, so to speak.
” Shortnin’ Bread”—Other than “Time Changes Everything” and “Come On, Let’s Go”, this is my favorite song to sing, and I hope you’ll like hearing it. The last verse proves that crime does not pay… I think.
“When You and I Were Young, Maggie”—Pappy brought in this chestnut, which rings a little more true, every day. Jeff Lisenby added his accordian, for a different flavor.
“On Moonlight Bay”—Tommy always sounds good doing the plaintive songs, and we had fun putting this arrangement together. Pappy played all those pretty fiddles, one at a time.
“Cindy”—David not only sings this one, but played some twin fiddle on the intro with his dad, Buddy.
“Yellow Rose of Texas”—We put the boogie woogie on this one, and it always helps to have Jim Hoke involved!
“Drums on the Cumberland”—I appreciate our drummer, Walter Hartman, Walter Hartman, so much, and am glad we made up this one to let him “show out” a little. Fans of Johnny Cuviello might hear something familiar!
“Yodelin’ Days”—Tommy wrote and sang this nice blues, and I love it!
“Smiles”—We always enjoy playing this one, featuring Pappy’s vocal, and some nice solos all around. Published in 1917, the sheet music sold over 2 million copies. That’s a lotta sheet music!
“Sugar Blues”—Usually a trumpet feature, Pappy gets in a few licks, and I love Neil’s breakdown piano solo. Most folks don’t sing the verse, but let’s face it… it’s only 3 minutes long, even with the verse!
“Carry Me Back to Old Virginny”—I’m crazy about the way Louis Armstrong and the Mills Brothers did this song, but we tried to make ours interesting, too. Aren’t you glad I didn’t sing the original lyrics?
“Fiddler’s Waltz”—Pappy’s a romantic at heart, and he wrote a real pretty tune this time. I got to impersonate a guitar trio for the bridge.
“Goodbye Liza Jane”—We couldn’t START the album with this one, could we? Among others, David gets in a nice solo.
Open That Gate
10 of the album’s 13 tracks were written by members of the group, and the songs are so well written, most listeners can’t distinguish the standards from the originals.
As always with this band, variety keeps things spicy. Five different lead singers deliver a wide assortment of material. The Bob Wills-sounding title track, Tommy’s pensive “Old Town”, John’s homemade “Neely’s Bend Quick Step” and Pappy’s sentimental “Waltz for Sue Ann” are among the valuable additions to the Western Swingers’ repertoire.
Featuring terrific art design by Garrett Rittenberry (Guerilla Design), and an environmentally friendly DigiPak case, Open that Gate was mostly mixed and mastered by Matt Spicher, who’s produced and engineered for big shots like Johnny Cash, Marty Stuart, and Pam Tillis.
“Open that Gate”—all the Swingers play on this novelty song based on those famous “Texas changes”. Dig the trio ensemble after the first verse, and Tommy’s slide ride.
“I’ll Keep on Lovin’ You”—Pappy puts Floyd Tillman’s song over with good cheer and a nice bouncy beat, and it goes down like a cool drink of water in July.
“Bring it on Down”—putting the 8 to the bar boogie to this old blues really makes it cook, while John, David, Pappy & Tommy share the verses.
“Old Town”—Tommy wrote and sings this evocative tune about a place we’ve all visited. Pretty changes and vocal harmony. Can’t you just feel the dry heat?
“Neely’s Bend Quick Step”—a lively fiddle tune written by… the band’s guitarist. Perfect!
“One More Time”—Neil sings this barroom ballad with plenty of feeling. Nice twin fiddles by the Papster!
“Right There with Me”—a cute little love song written by John. “You know, son… that’s gonna cost extra.”
“Waltz for Sue Ann”—When you’ve been married to the same patient woman for 58 years, it’s about time you wrote her a sweet love song. Nice going, Pappy!
“Big Boy Strut”—In the tradition of “Boggs Boogie” or “Boot Heel Drag”, here’s a dance instrumental on the blues. This is one band that can play loud and soft, and cook the whole time!
“Brownsville”—a nice Texas shuffle written by Neil. Dig the steel & fiddle… now THAT’S country music! Notice how Neil always slips those “uptown chords” in?
“The Closer I Get”—nice song sung by John with some hot playing and a nice key change, too. Cool those amps down, boys!
“She’s Comin’ Home with Me”— some gals just get carried away dancing to a country jukebox, but Tommy draws the line there. Nice ensemble licks by the band.
“Yes, Sir”—Who knew a couple of black guys from the Harlem Renaissance could write a song that sounds so Western Swing? David delivers the great lyrics with a lot of winning personality, and the album closes with a bang!
Thanks a Lot
The second album release by John England & the Western Swingers. Containing 12 songs associated with honky tonk hero Ernest Tubb, this album, like the group’s earlier Swinging Broadway, is full of the happy sound of Bob Wills-style Western Swing. All the Swingers make star turns here, and the group is supported by some of Nashville’s finest, including a horn section on 4 tracks.
A tip of the hat to one of country music’s greatest figures, Thanks a Lot is music for listening or dancing. The Swingers give lively performances of some of ET’s best songs in a way that makes you think the Texas Troubadour could’ve been a Texas Playboy.
“Thanks A Lot”—You’ve never heard this song done this way before! The Swingers turn it into a R&B stomper, with John’s guitar and Billy Huber’s dynamic trombone leading the way. John sings the lead, and Tommy provides the harmony. Riff City.
“Walkin’ the Floor Over You”—ET’s most famous song, which made him nationally famous in 1941, is given a strong vocal by Randy, and David’s walking bass raises the swing factor. I don’t remember any horns or key changes in ET’s version, do you?
“I’m Lookin High & Low For My Baby”—the Swingers straighten out the 8th notes on this one, and get in some nice licks, too. You’ll think John’s singing both parts, but that’s cause he and David sing together so good!
“I Love You Because”—Pappy really loves singing this song, and it shows. Be sure to note the Hank Thompson-style triple fiddles, and Tom’s piano. Otherwise, Tommy’s steel takes the spotlight—and that’s good!
“Mississippi Gal”—Tommy arranged and sings this one with the happy sound which the Swinger’s fans so admire. Get a load of that fiddle man, and John’s “One Note Solo”, complete with scat singing.
“It’s Been So Long Darlin”—ET wrote this emotive song, which continues to hit a deep nerve for servicemen and women, not to mention their families. Here, John gives it the Bobby Darin treatment, with a lot of strong playing in the band. Western SWING, indeed.
“Don t Be Ashamed of Your Age”—written by Cindy Walker at Bob Wills urging, this was a hit duet for ET and Red Foley in 1950. Pappy handles the vocal here, and his friend Jimmy Clark, from Brazilbilly, guests on trumpet, while Tom dishes out Fatha Hines, served hot!
“You Nearly Lose Your Mind”—Just like his hero Jimmie Rodgers, ET had a deep feeling for the blues, and he could always put across a funny lyric. Same goes for Randy, who lays down the law here after a nice intro by John and Tommy. Don’t miss the double time electric mandolin by the Western Swingers best friend, Paul Kramer.
“Waltz Across Texas”—Never a chart hit for ET, this song became the most popular number of his later career, and we all know why—it’s just that good! Triple fiddles, and mighty fine steel guitar complement the vocal harmony of John, Tommy, and David.
“Rhodes-Bud Boogie”—ET’s most famous Texas Troubadours were with him from 1962-1967, a band that included budding stars Jack Greene and Cal Smith as well as super pickers Leon Rhodes and Buddy Charleton. Here, John & Tommy pay tribute to those inspiring musicians with hot twin guitar work.
“In Her Own Peculiar Way”—another ET blues, this one with an unusual slant. As Western Swinger fans all know, “unusual” usually leads to Tommy , and that’s him singing this one. A sure favorite for all the married folks in the house.
“Tomorrow Never Comes”—the Swingers start this out with a walk through a New Orleans street parade before finding their way back to that Texas 2-step. John sings lead, David adds the harmony, and the horns take it out with extra hot sauce! A-ha!
Named “2003 Album of the Year” on the USA’s best Western Swing chart (swinginwest.com ), and is broadcast from radio stations in places like New Zealand, Germany, Alaska & France. If you can’t tune in those stations, you’d better buy your own copy!
“Little Liza Jane”—This two step opens with David’s walking bass, before the trio of Pappy, John and Tommy swing the old fiddle tune. John sings lead, and check out the hot steel solo!
“The Kind of Love I Can’t Forget”—Pappy sings some smooth lead on this Jesse Ashlock classic, and the trio sounds especially sharp. John adds the harmony vocals.
“Your Turn to Cry”—the only original on the CD, written and sung by John, is a fine tune with a well written lyric. Lots of nice ensemble licks, and great solos by Tommy and Tom.
“Makes No Difference Now”—Randy sings from behind the drums on Floyd Tillman’s tune, which the Swingers interpret as a Ray Price shuffle, complete with left hand piano doubling the bass and crying fiddle & steel.
“Stumbling”—the first of two instrumentals, “Stumbling” is in the Dixieland mode, complete with 4 bars of Randy’s drums on the top. Everybody gets to play on this one.
“Stardust”—Hoagy Carmichael’s tune gets a straight ballad reading, with John singing, brushes “stirring the soup” on the snare, and Pappy’s fiddle taking the break. Pretty fancy chord changes for a bunch of hillbilly musicians!
“Peach Pickin’ Time in Georgia”—Jimmy Rogers was an important influence on all the early country and western swing performers, and Tommy sings and yodels this tune with a nice & easy feel. He plays some pretty fancy steel, too.
“Deep Water”—After the fiddle/steel/guitar intro, a vocal trio of John, David and Tommy gives an approximation of the Sons of the Pioneers style. Tom plays some tasty piano, and John and Pappy play some “hokum”, too.
“Little Red Wagon”—A favorite ever since Hank Penny made this a hit in the 40’s, and Pappy delivers the goods on time with feeling. Swinging from top to bottom!
“Under the Double Eagle”—The “Johnny B. Goode” for Texas guitarists, here with some nifty trio bits, and more two-handed piano. Tommy delivers a surprise on the steel break, too.
“Rosetta”—A favorite request for many Western Swingers fans, due to the great vocal Randy gives it. Written by stride piano kingpin Earl Hines, the Swingers take the tune out with both barrels blazin!
“Sweet Jenny Lee”—a fairly obscure number by Tin Pan Alley songwriter Walter Donaldson sung by John & David in harmony, “SJL” ends the album by showcasing all that’s good about the Western Swingers; that is, happy, appealing picking and singing with a lot of spontaneity and personality.