Courtesy of Big Cedar Fever
Bob Wills still may be the king of Western swing, but the Hill Country trio Big Cedar Fever are proving themselves worthy heirs to the crown.
Guitarist Georgia Parker, fiddler Ian Lee and upright bassist Nick Lochmann made their debut a scant 18 months ago, but with two records, several tours and at least one major award to their name, they’ve already at the forefront of a century of Texas music tradition.
Western swing is a truly Texas genre. Born on Lone Star dancefloors in the Depression era, it blends cowboy twang and jazz shimmy. If the band’s playing an uptempo number with more chords than your average Hank tune, the singer’s utilizing equal parts country twang and nightclub croon and there are plenty of rip-roarin’ fiddle solos, you’re likely in Western swing territory.
“It’s a really satisfying genre,” Lochmann told the Current. “It’s a total mix of jazz and country.”
“It’s fun to drink and party to,” Parker added, “and it’s stimulating to play.”
All of Big Cedar Fever’s members — two of whom live just outside Boerne — grew up hearing Western swing, though their paths wended through punk, folk and rock ’n’ roll before they ended up performing the music.
But, after solidifying the trio’s lineup in 2017, Big Cedar Fever went all-in. The band launched a website early the following January, and the summer after that booked a tour to Montana and back on the strength of a single video, never having played a live gig.
They quickly made up the difference, touring coast to coast, releasing their debut EP and picking up the Ameripolitan Award for Best Western Swing Group this February. The Ameripolitans, spearheaded by honky-tonk man Dale Watson, recognize bands keeping country’s rowdier subgenres alive in the face of Nashville hegemon.
Along the way, the band caught the attention of the Austin Signal studio, which invited them to record a second EP for its Single Mic Series. They cut the six songs in a day, with a special 30-count run of single-sided records cut on the studio’s lathe.
As this issue hits the stands, Big Cedar Fever is touring the record along the Big Sky route, with gigs booked in Colorado, Montana and Wyoming. Lochmann and Parker profess a particular affinity for the latter state — for both practical and artistic reasons.
“One, it’s just so hot down here,” Lochmann said. “Two, it’s one of the pockets of the United States where Western swing is actually popular.”
That popularity has a distinct Alamo City connection, too.
“Every show in Wyoming — it wasn’t even a fluke, because it would happen at every single show — we’d start playing ‘San Antonio Rose,’” Parker said. “The fiddle would happen, and people would just cheer at the sound of that fiddle intro, and then sing along and dance.”
Besides paying their dues and honing their craft, the band attributes some success to its name, despite its potential notoriety among allergy sufferers. Parker recalls one such sufferer in particular.
“We opened for Asleep at The Wheel,” she said. “And [vocalist] Ray Benson, both times we’ve interacted with him, he’s like ‘Big Cedar Fever? I had cedar fever one time in the ’70s. It sucked! That’s a pretty questionable band name!’ But, then again, he’s remembered us.”
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