The Time Jumpers first formed in 1998 as a group of top-level Nashville studio musicians looking to cut loose on classic country and western swing. Settling in at Music City’s famed bluegrass club The Station Inn, The Time Jumpers took up a weekly residence with a band that includes vocalist/guitarist “Ranger Doug” Green (Riders In The Sky), steel player Paul Franklin (Alan Jackson, George Strait), fiddler Kenny Sears (Mel Tillis, Dottie West), guitarist Andy Reiss (Reba McEntire, Linda Davis) and others whose credits stretch from Ray Price to Carrie Underwood. What formed out of friendship with some good tunes and a couple cold ones has since evolved into a professional troupe with a record deal and their first studio album released in early September.
The Time Jumpers’ self-titled debut, packed tight with 12 traditional-flavored songs and some of the finest musicianship you’ll hear anywhere, includes nine tunes written by the group itself. With recent additions, including Country Music Hall of Famer Vince Gill, fiddler Larry Franklin (Kenny Chesney, Reba) and drummer Billy Thomas (Marty Stuart, Don Williams), the group continually showcases beautifully constructed arrangements with a serious love for western swing. Instrumental opener “Texoma Bound” highlights members of the band as one fluid solo moves into the next between brightly singing fiddle hooks supplied by Kenny, Larry and Joe Spivey (Merle Haggard, Kris Kristofferson). The playing is so precise here, and throughout the project, that individual songs feel more like detailed conversations. On “Nothing But The Blues,” Kenny Sears’ warm vocals relay the helpless story before accordion player Jeff Taylor (Elvis Costello, Harry Connick, Jr.) starts a musical interlude that includes expressive give-and-take passages between fiddle and pedal steel. Fiddle is also the bandleader on the juke joint number “On The Outskirts of Town,” where it feeds directly into a tasty guitar solo.
Lead vocal duties are shared between band members, including Vince Gill and Dawn Sears (who is also a backup singer for Vince’s own band), with each taking multiple leads. Dawn’s soulful, aching country voice brings a special dynamic to The Time Jumpers, giving the female perspective. The ¾-time countrypolitan-influenced “So Far Apart” displays her wonderful control and vibrato between lush musical fills. On “Faint Of Heart” (a song that appeared on Vince’s 2006 These Days collection), Dawn strikes a slightly more seductive chord with lines like, You start a fire, I’ll pour the wine. Dawn and husband Kenny duet on the urgent, “Texas On A Saturday Night,” displaying engaging shifts through continual key changes with happy-go-lucky charm. Everybody’s goin’, San Antonioin’, they sing in harmony.
The lone star state serves as the setting more than once. “Ridin’ On The Rio” transports listeners back in time as “Ranger Doug”’s classic country inflection and patient melodies lead into intricate musical interplay full of guitar harmonies, waterfall pedal steel and twin fiddle. Vince takes lead vocals on the lonesome “New Star Over Texas,” featuring a purposeful rhythm section guided by the upright bass of Dennis Crouch (Willie Nelson, Jerry Reed).
As implied by their name, The Time Jumpers are a bit of a throwback to the classic sounds of a past era. The musicianship, approach, and yes – yodeling, on songs like “Yodel Blues,” come through with so much authenticity because these are many of the actual musicians responsible for those legendary sounds. With a style that’s unique in today’s country landscape, The Time Jumpers deliver a gem with their timeless collection.
Key Tracks – “Texoma Bound,” “So Far Apart,” “Texas On A Saturday Night,” “On The Outskirts Of Town”