What a glorious musical era it was back in the 20s, 30s and 40s! Lyrics, melodies, feelings all perfectly fit together to both entertain and elicit emotional responses. Presenting a well-arranged set of swing and jazz favorites (with guitar, mandolin, fiddle, bass, steel guitar, vocals), these stellar musicians capture the romance of a bygone day. Life was much less encumbered and chaotic back then. Beth McNamara (acoustic bass guitar) and Jerry Ashford (guitar) have performed as a duo called “Moonglow” for over a decade. In 2004, they met mandolinist Joe Ross at an Oregon arts festival, and he was soon picking and singing right along with them. In 2006, well-known luthier Todd Clinesmith moved to Oregon and was recruited for certain gigs requiring a western swing flavor. Arkansas champion fiddler Tim Crouch was the perfect complement with his fine bow work and touch of tasty percussion.
A 1934 classic, the title cut sets the stage with imagination and thrill … way up in the blue, floating through the air, beautiful songs coming from everywhere. The effect of the moon and other celestial bodies on one’s affection for another is certainly a recurring theme from these musical lunarians of love. From a 1930ish version of Bill Boyd and His Cowboy Ramblers’ “Wahoo,” that song exclaims “give me a moon, a prairie moon, give me a heart that’s true.” “Miles of Texas” mentions “all the stars up in the skies,” it only seems appropriate that the full trio (McNamara, Ashford, & Ross) gives a rousing rendition of the 1921 hit, “The Sheik of Araby,” with its insight that “the stars that shine above will light our way to love.” When performing live, this fun and “lunar-tic” group often gets captivated crowds singing the phrase “with no clothes on” after each line in that tune. On one hand, this enthralling music is rather serious; on the other, it’s an entertaining hoot! Also from those grand twenties, “Everybody Loves My Baby” reinforces the theme –“She’s my Sheba, I’m her Sheik.”
Whether up-tempo or slower and reflective, charming love songs are this band’s forte, and the smiles beam. The bumpy road to love is well-documented in Ira & George Gershwin’s “They Can’t Take That Away From Me.” Beth McNamara’s silky smooth vocalizing on “I Don’t Want To Set The World On Fire” will surely start a flame in your own heart despite her admission that she’s “lost all ambition for worldly acclaim.” Beth and Jerry sing about the spell of love (“Scotch and Soda”) and how to make even honeybees jealous (“Honeysuckle Rose”). Confection, goodness knows! Drawing inspiration from King of Western Swing Bob Wills, Joe sings about dreaming dreams in vain (“I’m Confessing That I Love You”), as well as love’s refrain and blue skies ahead in “Time Changes Everything.”
The band gives the rhythm everything they’ve got just like Duke Ellington used to (“It Don’t Mean A Thing”). The music’s also spiced up with some savory Latin and Gypsyjazz zest. “Tico Tico” is a tangy instrumental, and “Under Paris Skies” (Sous Le Ciel De Paris) brings out the Gypsy in a totally different way than “Embraceable You” does. From start to finish, this quintet keeps reinforcing an important message about these beautiful songs ... they’re simply heavenly!