The Big Sky Mudflaps, Missoula’s iconic dance band, have put out their first recording in 20 years. It spans old-time jazz, bop, R&B, Latin and rock; it’s also got some Elvis and Dylan, and a Rodgers and Hart tune. A couple nifty originals make the grade, as well.
Together for more than 42 years, this combo can play anything and make it swing, jump, sizzle, and otherwise hip-tickle anyone who’s got a backbone. Original members David Horgan, guitars, his wife, Beth Lo, basses, and Maureen Powell, vocals, are joined by long-time Flap Chuck Florence on tenor sax and clarinet. Rich Brinkman adds drums, and pianists Bob Packwood and Jim Rogers take turns when the other has a conflict.
Packwood and Rogers replace the late Steve Powell, Maureen’s husband and the Mudflaps’ first piano player. Everyone but Packwood and Rogers sings, too, sharing savory harmonies along the way. Guests include Deb Hicks and Tai Horgan, background vocals, original drummer Michael Lea, and 90-years-young Dick Skultin, accordionist.
This swingin’ orchestra cooks right away on “Jumpin’ the Blues,” with the ch-ch-ch of cymbal, rollicking pianna and guitar, honkin’ sax, and cool ensemble singing. “Blues for Dixie,” with its soft clarinet and pedal-steel ambience, finds Lo singing sweet and loose. Tight three-part harmony ensues, too.
The bop number, “Cantaloupe Island,” features Lo’s lyrics; and whoa! Barbara George’s R&B nugget, “I Know,” is up-tempo and bluesy, with nice background ooh-aa-h-h vocals and stretched-out instrumental breaks.
Horgan’s “Four on the Floor and a Fifth Under the Seat,” is a bluesy toe-tapper. Terrific song title! The Packwood/Horgan gem “You Are the One” is a lovely ballad; Horgan’s lead vocal and tasty guitar work shines.
Elvis comes alive via Brinkman’s vocal on “Little Sister.” The Mudflaps nail the terrific signature riffs on this ‘un. This is a great production by one of Montana’s best bands, still cranking it out. They dedicated the album to Steve Powell, too. I think he’d be proud of it.
Visit the artists at bigskymudflaps.com.
– Mariss McTucker