Generally speaking, I don’t like change in music. When there’s a band I really like, the last thing I want to hear about is lineup changes. When a song already works one way and creates a nice comfortable groove in my brain like an old trusty baseball cap that fits perfectly, the last thing I’m looking for is some new spin on it. The chemistry for great music is so hard to come by, there’s no sense in tinkering with it once you’ve found it. I don’t want to see Journey being fronted by some Asian karaoke singer. Come to think of it, I don’t want to see Journey at all, but you get my point: I ain’t down with scabs in a band I’ve already fallen in love with.
That is why when I heard that Lawson Bennett of the originally two-piece Boomswagglers was out, and the remaining original member Spencer Cornett had picked up some new guitar player and chick drummer, I had little to no hope that plane would fly. And this isn’t just plugging in some new player, The Boomswagglers were created in this intense friendship between Spencer & Lawson fueled by abject destitution and mutual appreciation for music that gave rise to some of the most honest, authentic, and engaging tunes 2011 has seen released so far. I haven’t seen even one discouraging word said about their bootleg, released for free at Hillgrass Bluebilly Records (read SCM review here).
But I’ll be damned. Listen to me and listen good. This new Boomswagglers lineup, with Steven Bracamontez on guitar, and Natalie McDougall on drums has it. And when I say ‘it’, I’m not just saying it’s good, I mean it has that undefinable thing that when you watch it live, it makes the hair stand up on the back of your neck, the kind of ‘it’ that overrides appeal based simply on taste.
Steven is a masterful guitar player, who seems to have some third-eye sense for the mood and style that Spencer meant for this music to be fleshed out with. Apparently he was in another band with Spencer in the past, and they both hold the honorable distinction of being convicted felons. And Natalie doesn’t play drums like a drummer, which is good, because this would destroy the Boomswagglers’ sound. She plays them like a guitar player, and come to find out, she is one, and brings a smart ear to the instrumentation.
And the most compelling part is that they are all so young. The future and potential of this band is what I think intrigues me the most. Hypothetically, they can only get better. And Steven already has that hard-to-teach “taste over technique” Keith Richards-like quality and understanding. I’m simply getting shivers right now typing about what the potential is for this band. And the best quality of The Boomswagglers has always been their authenticity, and even though Lawson was as authentic as it gets, they seem even more authentic now with the new members.
And for those worried about Lawson, the odd man out in the new Boomswagglers, don’t. He’s got a buttload of talent too, and I have no doubt we will be hearing from him soon. It was simply a situation where Lawson had evolved away from what The Boomswagglers try to capture in their music. But having said that, Lawson’s fingerprints are still on this band. He helped write those songs, and forge their direction, and still deserves credit for what The Boomswagglers are doing now.
No video will capture what I felt from The Boomswagglers last Wednesday (10-5-11) at Antone’s in Austin, but it’s better than nothing.
Two guns way up on the new lineup!