After a litany of departed marquee female vocalists, the Nouveau String Band (NSB) has focused on being its own entity with the addition of Lafayette’s omnipresent drummer Danny Kimball. On its sophomore effort, the revised lineup really hits its stride, culling material from western swing, country, blues, bluegrass, gospel, jazz and even R&B where a dozen instruments, including piano and trumpet, are played between five guys.
Whether it’s a Hank Williams tune transformed into western swing or the Louvin Brothers’ “Cash on the Barrelhead” done with boogie textures, with quick stops and nimble-fingered solos, clever arrangements are a strong suit of NSB. When it comes to jazz, NSB excels in adapting horn-powered chestnuts from Count Basie and Louis Jordan into its own homegrown format. Pianist Oscar Peterson’s “Topsy” is recast à la “hot club’ with Dave Trainer’s and John Buckelew’s searing fiddles and Lee Tedrow’s splendid picking over a chugging rhythm foundation.
Though the whole concept is following the great American musical roadmap in search of the next sonic oasis, NSB starts its own footpath by unveiling Buckelew’s swinging “Star Around Town.” It’s one of the album’s best performances as Buck practically belts his heartfelt dedication to Abbeville’s unsung troubadour Garland Thompson. With this splendid release in hand, it’s a safe bet that there are plenty of miles left on this road trip.