The Big Valley Rangers – Bells Of Amarillo
Ridin’ Through The Valley – Sunday Shoes – Blue River – Hillbilly Swing – Doggone Blues – Serenade For An Outlaw – Old Mexico – Rev’d Up Heart – Agua Bendita – Senorita, Senorita! – Adios
It’s good to see one still plays this kind of country music, and it’s somehow weird to think they come from Seattle (though the town is known for its vivid roots music scene). The Big Valley Rangers are a mostly acoustic quartet made of Brian Ellidge (lead vocals, guitar), Johnny Mercury (guitars), Tyler Johnson (doublebass) and Liam Fitzgerald (rhythm guitar). For the recording of their debut album they invited a couple of guest musicians, among them Billy Joe Huels (Dusty 45’s) and Russ Blake (Lucky Stars), accordion, harmonica, trumpet, steel, fiddle…
Together they deliver 11 originals that already sound like timeless classics.
“Ridin’ Through The Valley” is a song that’d make Gene Autry proud: nifty lyrics, good melody with yodel and whistling, you can’t find a better way to open the album. “Sunday Shoes” follows with a melody that reminded me of “Bouquet Of Rose“. It’s a solid country song delivered with class like a good ol’ Ernest Tubb tune. “Blue River” takes you back to the western tradition, with the Sons Of The Pioneers around the campfire, harmonizing sweet melodies before they go to sleep (close your eyes and hear the coyotes in the background). Never the ones to stay the two feet in the same boot, they pursue with a Western swing influenced number that wouldn’t be out of place on a Lucky Stars album, full of sizzling solos, with a special mention to Mercury’s jazz guitar. “Doggone Blues” is a cowboy blues, think Marty Robbins’ Pain & Misery meets Jimmie Rodgers.
The second part of the album is almost entirely devoted to songs with a strong “south of the border” style, and Ellidge clear and beautiful voice serves them very well. Serenade For An Outlaw is a short Spanish guitar instrumental that introduces Old Mexico. This time again you think of the great Marty Robbins but this desperado tales completed with Mariachis trumpets evokes more his gunfighters ballads like El Paso or Big Iron. “Rev’d Up Heart” and “Senorita” take us back to the Autry style while “Agua Bendida” is a beautiful waltz with a Mexican feel and the aptly titled “Adios” closes the album. Do yourself a favor and buy this superb album right now.
Fred “Virgil” Turgis