Hardly Strictly Bluegrass 4 Reviews

Saturday, October 2, 12:15 p.m.
Star Stage
Reviewed by Aimee Spanier

Western Swing quartet The Saddle Cats played to a small but feisty crowd just after noon at the Star Stage on Saturday. Their music matched the crowd's energy - boisterous and full of humor and spark.

Fred Rose's "Roly Poly," a perky country ditty (a silly word that applies here perfectly) about a growing gastronome ("As long as he can chew it's ok"), sung by skinny singer-fiddler Richard Chon, got everyone's attention, and they held it throughout the set, never letting their classic cowboy sound become routine.

Throughout the set, I half expected Chon to break out into some light lyric opera, his performance style was so earnestly entertaining. But Bobby Black's steel guitar is the heart and soul of the Saddle Cats. A veteran of the Western Swing revival of the 1970s, he grounded the band, balancing out the funny with solid rhythm. But light is the overarching theme for the Saddle Cats. Even songs of marital dischord, like "Who Walks In When I Walk Out," take on a surprisingly cheery sound.

For all their fondness for tradition, the Saddle Cats make a point of noting that songs are their version of the old classics, and while they are very definitely a traditional Western Swing band, they make the songs their own, giving them a twist that takes them from cover band to original act.

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