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“Buck” Pizzarelli and the West Texas Tumbleweeds: Back in the Saddle Again

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Looks like guitarist “Buck”-better known as “Bucky” to city slickers-Pizzarelli couldn’t be happier out on the range, riding alongside a new sidekick, Jamaican-born jazz keyboardist and, yes, longtime country music fan Monty Alexander. Some matches are made in heaven, others under Western skies.

Back in the Saddle Again is a sequel, all right, following 2009’s Diggin’ Up Bones, and it’s every bit as engaging at Pizzarelli’s first round-up of classic country-and-western swing tunes. Once again the veteran picker is surrounded by notable compadres, including sons John (on guitar and vocal harmonies) and Martin (on bass). The remaining members of the West Texas Tumbleweeds, however, are largely responsible for preventing this vintage country-and-western salute from falling into the realm of campfire novelty. There’s no mistaking vocalist Andy Levas’ affection and affinity for Johnny Cash, for example, when he delivers “Hey, Porter” and “Folsom Prison Blues,” and much the same can be said for the way he tips his Stetson to Roy Rogers and Dale Evans on “Drifting Along With the Tumbling Tumbleweeds,” which features Alexander on melodica. The combination of Tommy White’s pedal steel guitar, Aaron Weinstein’s fiddle, Tony Tedesco’s drums and Rebecca Kilgore’s vocals add plenty of evocative touches to songs that have endured for all the right reasons.

Alexander gets to dust off the last verse. He caps the album with a solo performance of-what else?-“Happy Trails,” sincerely crooning (and briefly yodeling) over a loping piano arrangement. He and “Buck” should saddle up again-and soon.

Originally Published