Erik Swanson, Once a Cowboy & Indian, Swings Back Into Action With His New Band

While Pete's giving away a suite to see Lil Wayne over on DC9, you'll pardon this musical interlude over here on Unfair Park. But this morning's mail brought a most pleasant surprise: the debut disc from Shoot Low Sheriff, which marks Erik Swanson's return to his perch upon the Western Swing a decade after the demise of Cowboys & Indians, who, full disclosure, performed at my wedding back in '97.

Actually, Swanson's not entirely sure when Cowboys & Indians called it quits -- "I'll say 2000," he offers. But since the band disbanded, Swanson's been playing with the Texas Gypsies. Bass player Larry Reed, who'd been with Swanson a long while, urged the bandleader to pick up where he (and Bob Wills and Milton Brown) left off: "Larry got me going," Swanson says. Hence, Friday night's CD release party at the Sons of Hermann Hall (where else?), during which the band will perform originals, covers and even Cowboys & Indians do-overs from its Mockingbird Sessions CD for the low, low price of five bucks.

The disc started out as a demo tape so Shoot Low Sheriff could score some gigs; the band cut five songs in an afternoon at a buddy's loft in Mockingbird Station. "But it went together so easily, we decided, shoot, we ought to do a whole record," Swanson says. Finishing it took another six months. But, kind man he is, Swanson's actually letting you download a handful of its 13 tracks -- among them such familiars as "St. James' Infirmary," "Roly Poly" and "The Western Life" -- absolutely gratis.

I'm reminded of something Christina Rees wrote about Swanson for our Music Awards issue back in '98: "He's a modern music man with a savvy appreciation for the past, for authenticity." It holds just as true today: With the death of Tom Morrell in 2007, Swanson's among the last links Dallas has with its Western Swing roots. "But this is what I've always been doing," he tells Unfair Park, "keeping the sound alive and reminding people what used to be here and what it means to be part of Texas." Amen, brother.

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