Listen Up: Wednesday, July 30, 2003
A D V E R T I S E M E N T
A D V E R T I S E M E N T
The Insiders

Live at the Finish Line (Self-released)

By Ken Shimamoto

A sluggish economy needn’t be an impediment to hard-core beer-and-sawdust honkytonk enjoyment and unbridled boot-scootin’. Just ask the folks on Cowtown’s western extremity who pack the dance floor at the Finish Line three nights a week to be transported by the Insiders’ country traditionalism.

And no wonder. You don’t have to be a musical contrarian to be bored silly by the current crop of Texas Music/Americana or whatever they’re calling it this week me-too-ists. Those pickup truck soundtrack-makers may write songs about country music, but their music sure ain’t the thing itself. Apply the WWGD (What Would George Do) test, and they invariably come up short.

Not the Insiders, who trade (heh heh) on a surfeit of strengths, starting out with their seemingly bottomless bag of shuffle country and western swing goodies, all in full effect here on the band’s debut disc, Live at the Finish Line. Sure, the boys are playing covers, but this classic repertoire deserves preservation as much as the masterworks of dead Europeans or tall Delta daddies. And make no mistake: This isn’t folk music. Rather, it’s American pop songcraft of the highest order. Am I suggesting that Skeets McDonald (two of whose forgotten gems appear here) is an artiste as legit as, say, Gershwin or Porter? You betchum.

Then there’s the top-flight instrumental work, a reminder that at the most fundamental level, Bob Wills’ Texas Playboys were nothing more than shit-hot jazz musos wearing cowboy hats. Just dig Gary Cartwright’s slithering steel, Reggie Rueffer’s sassy fiddle, or the breezy swing of bassist Reggie Brown and drummer Wayne Bennett. The icing on the cake — three, count ’em, three strong vocalists. Chad Rueffer takes the majority of the leads in his laconic baritone but shares the mic with bassist Brown’s rougher-hewn voice and his brother’s smooth tenor.

As Reggie Rueffer says, “You gotta have this, Papa.”


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