Big Sandy Presents The Fly-Rite Boys

Big Sandy

Hightone Records, 1998

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


If there's been any benefit I've experienced from running this site, it's that I've gained a healthy respect for rockabilly.

Sure, I had heard some in my youth, hearing early works from Carl Perkins and Elvis Presley. I re-discovered this music form when I got to hear the Paladins during my stint in college radio. But in the last few months, I've gotten a healthy dose of the genre, and it's not been unpleasant at all.

The latest offering comes from the Fly-Rite Boys, their first outing without lead singer/guitarist Big Sandy. Their solo effort shows their musical talents quite well, though it's not always the easiest disc to get through.

Comprising of pianist/vocalist Carl "Sonny" Leyland (vocals are only on two of the album's twelve tracks), bassist Wally Hersom (is he the vocalist on "Booze Party"? I can't tell), lead guitarist Ashley Kingman, steel guitarist Lee Jeffriess and drummer Bobby Trimble, the Fly-Rite Boys quickly demonstrate their agilities on their instruments on "Straight-8 Boogie". Each member of the band comes through crisply without sounding gaudy; you can tell that each member appreciates the others' contributions, making this truly a group effort.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

As enjoyable as the two vocal tracks ("Rosetta" and "Booze Party") are, in a sense they break the mood of an all-out rockin' instrumental album. Of the two, "Booze Party" is more fun to listen to - not that "Rosetta" is a bad song, mind you.

Big Sandy Presents The Fly-Rite Boys runs the gamut of musical styles, breaking out of the simple rockabilly style that some detractors of the genre might want to pigeon-hole it into. You can almost imagine the plodding "Laguna Sunset" to be the background music for a '70s murder-mystery TV show set on the coast, while "Hit And Run" is an all-out barrel of fun that allows some solo opportunities for the musicians. (Trimble especially shines on this track, sounding not unlike Buddy Rich at times.)

So is there any down side to this album? Not if you're a drooling fan of rockabilly or any forms it may take; you'll eat this up faster than Dom DeLuise in front of a sweet table. But for the occasional dabbler in the genre (like myself), the songs occasionally blur together. It took me a few tries to get through this entire disc, and even after three complete listenings after that, I don't think I've captured all the nuances yet.

And, there are a few clunkers on this one. One of these, "Minor Struggle," is a nice attempt to create a rockin' number in a minor key, but it just doesn't seem to fly. Still, there aren't that many misses.

Big Sandy Presents The Fly-Rite Boys is a decent enough effort, even though its target audience might be more limited than a typical release. It does cause the listener to become more interested in the genre of rockabilly - without that genre, we most likely wouldn't have developed rock and roll as soon as we did.

Rating: B-

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© 1998 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Hightone Records, and is used for informational purposes only.