They’re out all the time individually, so they don’t get out much as a group.
But on Feb. 12, Nashville’s Grammy-nominated superstar Western swing band the Time Jumpers will make a rare out of town appearance together when they play City Winery in New York—one of a small string of East Coast dates ending in Easton, Pa., Feb. 16, before they head home for their weekly Monday night gigs at 3rd & Lindsley.
"This is the longest tour the Time Jumpers have ever been on,” says vocalist/acoustic rhythm guitarist “Ranger Doug” Green, who’s more frequently seen outside Nashville in the venerable cowboy & western band Riders In The Sky.
The other Jumpers are upright bassist Dennis Crouch, fiddler Larry Franklin, steel guitarist Paul Franklin (unrelated), Vince Gill on vocals and electric and acoustic guitar, electric guitarist Andy Reiss, vocalist Dawn Sears, her husband vocalist/fiddler Kenny Sears, fiddler/vocalist Joe Spivey, accordionist/pianist Jeff Taylor and drummer/vocalist Billy Thomas.
“We all do other things, of course, and Vince has a fairly active career,” deadpans Green, “and the Riders do, too. Larry and Paul are some of the premium studio guys in town. Being in their company—and Vince and Jeff Taylor’s—makes you humble in a hurry! And even though people know they’ll see Grade A, Number One musicians, they’ll be blown away when Dawn Sears sings: She’s a force of nature who’s slipped through the cracks, and is loving every minute singing with us.”
Getting together to tour as the Time Jumpers, then, “is a hard thing for us,” Green continues. “So it’s a special thing to be able to come see us play, and we’re happy to do it in New York, since so much swing is associated with that city—and people there can see how we do it Western style.”
The Time Jumpers are also out in support of their latest album and Rounder Records debut, The Time Jumpers.
“It’s our second album of any consequence,” notes Green. “We had a couple self-produced albums back in the day that we sold at the door, but our first real album, Jumpin’ Time , was on the Crosswind label and got a couple Grammy nominations. So this is our second one on a national label.”
The Time Jumpers, too, has earned a pair of Grammy nominations: Best Country Album and Best Vocal Performance by a Duo or Group–Country, for the album track “On The Outskirts Of Town.”
For The Time Jumpers, the group decided against doing “the Bob Wills covers that a lot of other swing bands do, even though we know that book by heart,” continues Green. “So we all pitched in and contributed songs that sound like they were written and played by the greatest Western swing band there ever was. I’m already thinking about things for the next record, and it’s a wonderful process.”
The Time Jumpers formed in 1998 as a fun jam session for a group of Music City’s top studio players. They were soon playing gigs around Nashville and got a regular spot Monday nights at the Station Inn, where they attracted media attention as well as sit-ins by stars including Reba McEntire, Bonnie Raitt, Norah Jones, Toby Keith, Sheryl Crow, Elvis Costello and Robert Plant.
“This group is so darn much fun, because everybody’s in it for therapy,” says Green. “We call it our Monday night therapy session, because we get away from all our worries and other things we do and play swing music the way we want to play it. We’re just so fortunate that people have latched on to it and enjoy it, and suddenly we have a record with two Grammy nominations.”
Meanwhile, Riders In The Sky have just celebrated 35 years together.
“We might make a career out of this!” says Green, the Grand Ole Opry quartet’s genial “Idol of American Youth” frontman. “I’m not looking for a job!”
In what’s shaping to be another busy year for the group, the Riders are looking at the March release of an album featuring Wilford Brimley.
“We’re going to Arizona this weekend to do some shows with him,” says Green. “He’s a delightful and wonderful guy to work with. He has a great presence, and people just love him.”
Brimley had taken his grandchildren to Riders shows several times.
“We did a benefit in Wyoming and knew he sung some, and invited him up and the audience went crazy and loved it!” says Green. “We said we should do something together as he left the stage, and he said, ‘Any time you want.’ So he flew to Nashville and sat in with the Time Jumpers, and we made an album with a bunch of his favorite songs like ‘Home On The Range’ and ‘I'll Take You Home Again, Kathleen’—some old jazz, some old cowboy songs.”
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