Where Bob Wills started with country and blues and added jazz to the mix to create western swing, singer Megg Farrell starts with swing jazz as a starting point for her latest album, My Window Faces the South, streaming at Bandcamp. It’s a party album, but it’s also an innovative mix of vintage styles. She’s keeping her cowboy hat on for her next gig on Nov 26 at 9 PM at Skinny Dennis. For those who might dread Williamsburg on a weekend night, consider that a lot of the contingent who make that neighborhood such a miserable place will probably still be out of town for Thanksgiving.
Sweet Megg, as she’s known, switches effortlessly between the many types of oldtime Americana she’s explored from the start of her career about ten years ago. She reaches down for a low-key, mistier take on Patsy Cline in the opening number, Faded Love. Fiddler Billy Contreras fires off a deliciously slinky solo midway through, trumpeter Mike Davis and saxophonist Ricky Alexander punching in with bright harmonies over the groove of bassist Dennis Crouch and drummer Chris Gelb.
The band blend dixieland flair and a little jump blues over an oldtime swing beat in the next track, Hesitation Blues. There’s an accordion along with Chris Scruggs’ steel guitar on a balmy version of I Can’t Stop Loving You; then the band pick up the pace with There’ll Be Some Changes Made, with Contreras’ fiddle, Alexander’s clarinet and Scruggs’ scrambling steel front and center.
The album’s title track gets a sly cha-cha intro and some spiraling ragtime piano from Dalton Ridenhour before the horns and the steel pair off. The tricky intro to Sentimental Gentleman from Georgia is there to fake you out: Farrell and the band make hi-de-ho country out of it, if you can imagine that.
They really nail a hazy, wistfully nocturnal atmosphere in their lush, enveloping version of Stardust, fueled by Ridenhour’s steady C&W piano. Farrell and Alexander harmonize in an oldtime swing-infused take of I’ve Got a Feeling I’m Falling as Contreras flickers in the background. And they have fun reinventing the Tennessee Waltz, first with just Farrell’s vocals over animated slip-key piano, then Scruggs comes in sailing overhead.
Likewise, Ridenhour and Gelb give an incisive, imaginative drive to Those Memories of You. They close with Trouble in Mind, Farrell and the group stretching further out into the jazz that brought them here. On one hand, almost all of the songs here have been done to death: credit this inspired cast for breathing new life into them.