Retta and the Smart Fellas - They Took the Stars Out of Heaven
Western Swing: Is it Jazz or Country?
It’s a question that’s been haunting music listeners for over 70 years, since
the genre was first heard in the honky-tonks and grange halls of Texas in
the 1930’s. Groups such as Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys and the Light
Crust Doughboys combined traditional Western melodies with swinging jazz
rhythms being popularized by big-city bands. Jukeboxes and radio shows,
such as The Grand Ole Opry and WLS Barn Dance, brought Western swing to
a mainstream national audience. No matter what you call it, Western swing
will make you tap your feet, snap your fingers, and just feel good.
Leading the Western swing resurgence is Retta & the Smart Fellas from
Portland, Oregon. Retta Christie grew up in rural Oregon listening to
Western swing at the local grange hall on Saturday nights. She formed the
first incarnation of Retta and The Smart Fellas when fresh out of college.
The present group has been together since 1999, playing to enthusiastic
reviews and growing audiences at clubs and festivals throughout the
west. The group’s first CD, “Rural Jazz” received top radio airplay in
Europe. “Rural Jazz” was also nominated by the Academy of Western
Artists (AWA) in several categories including, Western Swing Album of
the Year (2002.)
In an age when most recordings are over-dubbed and over-processed with
multiple tracks, Retta and The Smart Fellas remain true to the music. Each
song on this CD was recorded live in the studio without the use of high-tech
hocus-pocus. The results give the feeling that a group of friends came together
in your home for a swinging Western jam session.
“They Took the Stars Out of Heaven” features nine standards, which showcase
both Retta’s and The Smart Fellas’ versatility from hard driving polkas to
lilting hymns. Jazzman Dave Frishberg wrote, “I grew up listening to this
kind of music when I was a kid, so Retta’s band hits me square in the memory
department, where it counts. They’re authentic Western swing players and
they can swing you into bad health. I love hearing them in person, and their
onstage charisma comes across on this recording.”