Decked out in cowboy hats, boots, belt buckles and shades, the members of Texas Tony and the Tornado Ramblers are committed to their exaggerated stage personas and back story, but there is nothing disingenuous about the act's growing acclaim or the raucous honky-tonk-ery the group purveys.
Along with the band's recognition, its lineup is expanding. Currently at seven, Texas Tony and the Tornado Ramblers can fill any stage. With the addition of trumpet and pedal steel, the band's sound is equally full. Aware of the logistical challenges of coordinating a band of seven, founding members Texas Tony (drums) and Dr. Buddy Lowend (bass) say that the results justify the difficulties.
"We added Jorge Eldorado on trumpet about a year ago," details Texas Tony. "He instantly added another dimension to our sound. You hear horns quite a bit in older country, and it is just a great texture on top of the standard drums, bass and guitar sound. We've even added a couple of soul songs that highlight the horn. … Right before Jorge, we added Jonny Fingers on acoustic guitar. We can't seem to keep a rhythm guitar player; he's our third. We give him a hard time about it too. We hold it over his head that he's replaceable. He's our Jason Newstead. All kidding aside, Jonny is very solid and we're happy to have him.
"Our most recent addition is Jesse 'Double J' Jeffers on the pedal steel. We always felt like we were missing something, and the pedal steel was it. It's the authentic country sound."
True to its outlaw country persona, the Ramblers perform a twang-heavy mix of original and cover tunes, but also possess a distinctly rock 'n' roll edge. With infectious, high-energy performances, the group's crusade against modern country's confused pop direction is picking up followers at every gig.
"Music evolves and tastes change," tells Lowend. "We were probably born 30 years too late to do what we do, but we've found a niche that people like. When we play live, people get it, and we've never had a boring show. We lean heavily on the past but have a foot in the present. And yes, real country is still out there. Marty Stuart is a great example of an artist fighting to preserve the history of it.
"(And) the look is important. … We do strongly encourage beards, cowboy hats, boots, belt buckles and sunglasses. We decided at the start that we would have a good time every time we play and make sure the crowd has fun too. We've been known to pass a bottle of whiskey around the crowd. Bobby (Evans, vocals) will go in the crowd and sing and dance with the ladies, and Tony has even called a game of bingo between songs."
Accenting its rock attributes, the Ramblers have partnered with 10 Years drummer Brian Vodinh to record their debut release. Given Vodinh's own busy itinerary and the band's high-volume roster, the recording may be long in the making, with no set release date. Nonetheless, Texas Tony and the Tornado Ramblers look to build momentum, extending their performance radius with regional dates and frequent gigs in the coming year.
"Yeah, we've been working on new songs for an album that has the working title 'London Gentleman,'" says Texas Tony. "We have about half the songs written and are recording them as we go. We're pretty sure our music sounds better on vinyl, so we'd like to make that happen.
"Brian has been great. He's a studio wizard. He has an ear for all kinds of music, and he likes what we're doing. He's on the road a lot touring, so we'll record a batch of songs, and when he gets back off the road he'll work on the arrangements and producing the vocals and then mix them. We've been meaning to get him an honorary hat and boots. We've been paying him in moonshine."
Saturday night, Texas Tony and the Tornado Ramblers will take the stage at The Knoxville Civic Auditorium, opening for Aaron Tippin. Proceeds from the event, presented by The Tennessee Veterans Business Association, will benefit veteran-oriented programs and businesses. The show starts at 8 p.m. Tickets range from $27.50 (balcony) to $32.50 (floor) and may be purchased through the Knoxville Civic Auditorium-Coliseum box office or www.knoxvilletickets.com.
"We were obviously very honored to be asked to be involved," Texas Tony acknowledges. "Anytime we can rock for the men and women who make this country great, it is a great time for us. Aaron Tippin is a pro too. He has had four gold records and a platinum record in his career. … This will be our first big stage show with Jesse on pedal steel. We might even have a couple surprise guests join us; we will see."
© 2013, Knoxville News Sentinel Co.
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