Austin's real lounge lizards

Down south, it don't mean a thing if it ain't got that swing

While it's the challenges and adventure that attracted 8 1/2 Souvenirs to their particular brand of swing, they are not unaware of their fortuitous timing. "There is a big swing revival happening everywhere," Gill says. "And yes, we're willing to take advantage of that."

If The Naughty Ones recall Vegas lounges in the high-roller heyday, and 8 1/2 Souvenirs suggests a smoky jazz cafe on the Montmartre in gay Paree, The Lucky Strikes suggest a postwar Italian supper club on Manhattan's fabled West 52nd. Crooning songs written in the Tin Pan Alley tradition, frontman Craig Marshall is nonetheless another roots rocker who had a yen to try something different when his country duo The Delta Rays broke up--after his singing partner Maura Boudreau left Austin to tour with Nanci Griffith.

"As a singer and songwriter, I always dug the sophistication of the classic swing material and the great crooners," Marshall explains. Taking his cue from the jazzier, small-combo work by Frank Sinatra and Tony Bennett, Marshall began exploring the notion of writing his own "swingin' lover" music, as he calls it. "I started fooling around with these chords and song structures, and finally got good enough that I could write songs in this style."

The band he recruited as The Lucky Strikes were also country rockers, yet they effectively worked themselves into a swing combo with a finesse that invites favorable comparison with last year's jazz crooning gem, the unearthed 1962 recording of Sinatra and Sextet: Live in Paris. "We're really trying to do it true to the songs and the style," Marshall says. But Marshall still can't resist at least a bit of a joke: "My idea is to do a tour where we just play Italian restaurants." As such, The Lucky Strikes will appear at the Sambuca restaurants in Dallas in January.

Yet another Austin act, Euripides Pants--whose members hail from the underground rock scene--has an album in the can, swinging with a kitschy '60s sensibility. Meanwhile, the Continental Club has already mounted a weekend swing festival, while the hipster set continues flocking to hear such lounge acts as Bobby Doyle at Ego's in South Austin and Jay Clark at The Carousel Lounge in near North Austin.

"Who would have thought it?" Marshall says with a chuckle. "Austin, Texas--the new lounge capital.

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