If at first you don't succeed...
The first time Ray Condo and his Ricochets toured Texas, things didn't go so well. The gig previous to their appearance in Dallas--in Bryan-College Station--had been less than auspicious. "They can pull in a couple hundred people out here on the coast," Jeff Richardson explains from San Francisco. Richardson owns Joaquin Records, a small label devoted to often-obscure Western swing (another excellent Joaquin album features Billy Jack Wills--Bob's little brother--and his work from the early '50s) and associated genres. "I think in Bryan they drew six, maybe eight people; the band was pretty bummed."
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The Dallas date didn't fare much better. Booked into a West End club, the group was beset by tourists who either seemed to be going to or coming from Planet Hollywood. "They got a lot of requests for 'Faded Love' and 'Take Me Back to Tulsa," Richardson recalls with a chuckle. The few in-the-know swingsters who were there, however, raved about the show, declaring Condo & Co. the masters of the same kind of post-war jump-swing that Wayne Hancock does so well.
Like Hancock, Condo pushes the boundaries of that medium. Their new album, Door to Door Maniac, visits Western swing lodestones like Tex Williams ("I Lost My Gal in the Yukon," a remake of Williams' "I Lost My Gal in Memphis") and Bob Wills ("I'm Feelin' Bad"), of course, but it also zips through songs by Gene Vincent, Billie Holiday, and Arthur "Big Boy" Crudup. Condo, a Canadian, displays the same acuity for pop (North) Americanisms that many of his countrymen--Neil Young, Bruce Cockburn, et al.--share, turning in sultry ballads, sizzling rockabilly, and dance numbers that swing to the extreme. When he bowed out of an earlier gig at the Sons of Hermann, it was feared that his previous Dallas ordeal may have soured him on our town; now, as he joins Johnny Reno and his Lounge Kings at the Red Jacket, we should try to give him a reason to come back soon.
Ray Condo and his Ricochets play the Red Jacket on Thursday, October 16.