Bebop Cowboys Canadian Dance Hall

It is shaping up to be a banner summer for fans of real Canadian country bands, as opposed to the Nashville wannabes out there. A long-awaited new album from the cream of the crop, Prairie Oyster, beckons, while this new disc from Toronto favourites Bebop Cowboys is a sweet treat. There are strong links between both bands, as they now share a drummer (John Adames), while the Oyster’s golden-throated singer Russell deCarle guests on three cuts and co-wrote "Shooting Star” with chief Cowboy Steve Briggs. Other star guest vocalists include jazz and blues gals Alex Pangman and Terra Hazelton Downchild’s Chuck Jackson, and Sarah Harmer, who chimes in with a gorgeous take on "Stardust.” Tunes range from covers of some Western swing favourites (four from genre great Bob Wills) to originals contributed by Briggs and wife Kristin, multi-instrumentalist, singer and folk legend Chris Whiteley (an honorary Cowboy), and harmonica player/singer Howard Willett. The sextet describe themselves as a "Western swing orchestra, ” but the choice of pop and jazz classics from the past (Duke Ellington’s "Caravan” included) gives their sound extra diversity, one heightened by the guest singers. The playing throughout is of the highest order, especially the lap steel of Burke Carroll and Briggs’ fluent lead guitar. Informative liner notes stress that Western swing was a big part of the Canadian dance music from the ’30s to ’50s, and Bebop Cowboys do the era proud. Hard to imagine any band coming out of Lubbock or Austin now that could do this any better. (Independent)