It’s Western Swing!
“Easier to describe than to define, Western swing is ballroom dance music with a Western flair, played primarily on stringed instruments.”
— Guy Logsdon, Oklahoma Historical Society
The Best Westerns meld instrumental virtuosity and the powerful charm of classic songs old and new, from way out West to Tin Pan Alley. Some call it swing, some call it jazz, some might think it’s rockabilly, and some even call it western music. And that’s how you know it’s Western Swing.
The six-piece ensemble features fiddle, piano, guitar, steel guitar, acoustic bass, and drums.
The repertoire ranges from Bob Wills to Benny Goodman, with stops along the way for Slim Gaillard, Speedy West, Count Basie, and Carl Smith . . . or Carl Perkins . . . or Ray Price. Incorporating influences too numerous to name, the band’s creative synergy leads to a growing core of original compositions.
Most of all, it’s dance music. The band runs on rhythm. “Once people are dancing, we’re in business,” says bassist and bandleader Mark Hembree.
About the Band:
Mark Hembree recorded and toured with Bill Monroe (“Father of Bluegrass Music”), the Nashville Bluegrass Band (“O Brother Where Art Thou?” soundtrack), the Dreadful Snakes (produced by Béla Fleck and Jerry Douglas) and Monroe Doctrine. He also can be heard in recordings with Peter Rowan, David Grisman, Tony Trischka, Roy Bookbinder, Randy Travis, and Neil Young (among many others). Recent years have brought appearances at events reuniting Bill Monroe bandmates, such as MerleFest and Garrison Keillor’s “A Prairie Home Companion” (along ex-Blue Grass Boys Del McCoury, Peter Rowan, Roland White, Bobby Hicks, Blake Williams, Bob Black, and Tom Ewing). Grammy-nominated albums include the Nashville Bluegrass Band’s “To Be His Child” and Peter Rowan’s “Blue Moon Rising,” not to mention a recording credit on Randy Travis’ platinum-selling “Storms of Life.”
Eddie Rivers has appeared on more than 40 commercial music releases and toured all over the world as the longest-tentured steel guitarist in the storied history of Grammy award-winning band Asleep at the Wheel. The multitalented Rivers also sings and plays saxophone, but in the art of “straight” steel guitar – no pedals – Eddie has no peer, as evidenced in his many recordings with the Wheel and his solo album “Plain Talkin’ Man” which enjoys a five-star rating on Amazon.
Andy Pagel’s drumming has powered several Wisconsin Area Music Industry (WAMI) award-winning bands. Pagel’s resumé stretches from punk and psychobilly in New York City to Milwaukee’s Liam Ford, Western Box Turtles, Johnny on Washday, and the Who tribute band Substitute. He also can be heard on Eddie Rivers’ album “Plain Talkin’ Man.”
The rock-solid beat is further charged by veteran guitarist Tim “Beezer” Ferguson, long-known to Wisconsin fans since bands such as Radio Flyer and Ida Red, and more recently with Les Martin and the country rock band Twang.
On fiddle and vocals, Mark Roeder is a multi-instrumentalist swing man with several bands and has been performing all over the Midwest for decades.
Pianist Jeff Stehr is a go-to keyboardist in Milwaukee, often seen with the legendary Tritonics.