Susie Blue and the Lonesome Fellas will help you say Bye Bye Blues
“You can’t listen to Western Swing and not smile, it’s impossible not to smile, it’s feel good music. Solitaire Miles’ voice is wonderful, what an instrument.” – Michael Feldman, NPR
Chicago’s Susie Blue & the Lonesome Fellas has released their new album “Bye Bye Blues”, mixing a huge repertoire that spans Jazz and Retro Cowboy Music with undertones of the Blues. Western Swing has had a lot of attention recently with the Ken Burns PBS documentary “Country Music”, and who better to record and release an album of traditional tunes than the best of Chicago’s Jazz, Blues and Roots musicians?
A 25 year veteran of Chicago Jazz, Solitaire Miles has a tremendous voice that’s is plucked from old time radio – joyously lilting, and at once vintage and contemporary. She sings with abandon, possessing a sound that can hold a note somewhere between a croon, a chord and a warble. The 12 tune release features the best songs from the 1940’s and 50’s when Hollywood was making all of the classic Cowboy movies and Western Swing culture was at it’s peak.
The entire album is a collection of cover songs from that period and is arranged and lead by the Fellas’ guitarist and musical director Neal Alger, who preserves the authentic feeling of the music but gives it enough flair and originality, keeping it fresh. Soloing by Chicago’s Harmonica maestro Howard Levy, and fiddle improvising by Austin’s Javier Chaparro bring a new flavor to the band, keeping the music feisty and effervescent.
The lead tune “Bye Bye Blues” was recorded by several Country and Jazz groups, most notably by Les Paul and Mary Ford, and Miles is accompanied by Country Jazz singer Jen Zias in a euphonius harmony, while Neal Alger leads the tune on guitar with Howard Levy comping and playing a frisky solo.
The other tracks include some of the best of the era, including the classic “Drivin’ Nails in My Coffin” by Ernest Tubb, “Ocean of Tears” by Kay Starr and Tennessee Ernie Ford and a few great classic Swing tunes from the legendary songwriter Cindy Walker.
There is even a classic Willie Nelson tune “The Nightlife” which is a great mix of sultry jazz and country, featuring Levy soloing with Chicago’s Pedal Steel Maestro TC Furlong. Miles’ vocal style has been described as a combination of Billie Holiday and Patsy Cline, and in this arrangement you can really hear both influences coming through strong. Her voice is coated in a warm patina, yet the music feels contemporary – full of heart, harmonica, and pedal steel.
Chicago’s most prominent Reed player Eric Schneider shows up on both clarinet and sax, and LA Jazz writer and critic Scott Yanow even makes an appearance playing Melodica on the Pee Wee King classic “I Hear You Knockin'” which also features an authentic Cowboy vocal by Austin singer Keith Weber in a duet with Miles.
The album’s one instrumental tune “Spadella” was written by Western Swing bandleader Spade Cooley and is led by Javier Chaparro, dueling with Chicago’s best accordion virtuoso Don Stille. This tune was recently nominated by the Academy of Western Artists for “Best Western Swing Song” of the year.
Miles was going to release the album later in the Summer of 2020, but decided to release it digitally now – “I really wanted to put something out there that would cheer folks up” she said. “These tunes are so much fun because they are lighthearted and hopefully they will lift everyone’s spirits during this difficult time.”
“Bye Bye Blues” is a cheerful earful indeed! Western Swing developed in the late 1930’s, when jazz merged with roots music right after the Great Depression. The music was fun and high spirited, which was something that people needed during one of the most difficult times our World has faced.
Now it’s the voice of a bygone era coming back again through Miles and the Lonesome Fellas, to serenade another generation – to comfort, encourage and gladden hearts as we face a new threat to our humanity like we’ve never done before. So kick back and listen to the selections on your digital device, and try to forget about your worries and grief for awhile… these old songs have seen sad times before and have enlivened the minds and spirits of generations. Let them lift you up and clear your mind of worry, fear and pain for a short while – they are a timeless cure.
It is also available on itunes, Amazon, Spotify and other digital distributors
Listen to more from Susie Blue and the Lonesome Fellas here!
Solitaire Miles lead vox
Jen Zias harmony vox
Keith Weber – vox
Neal Alger – guitar
Howard Levy – harmonica
Tom Hope – piano
Don Stille – piano, accordion
Javier Chaparro – fiddle
Eric Schneider – reeds
TC Furlong – pedal steel
Chris Bernhardt – bass
Phil Greatteau – drums
Paul Abella – percussion