There is a pleasant surprise hearing Western Swing emerging from the Marshall Ford Swing Band when you realize they've been together for twenty years. In the album It's About Dam Time, the group shows a maturity and an understanding to all the music they released. The combination of original songs and classic songs melds beautifully as each track flows one into another. The album It's About Dam Time had everything right from the order of tracks to the choice of album cover with a cute armadillo in boots.
Each member gets a moment to shine with solos. I loved the piano and guitar solos included in "In a Shanty in Old Shanty Town." The group manages to have a great dynamic even when guest musician Erik Hokkanen joins in on the track "Old Joe's Hittin' the Jug." The band can prove that they can work with any tempo. Both "Pickles n Tomatoes" and "Section 8" has a mastery over the tempo; nothing feels like the band was rushed or couldn't keep up. On the other side of tempo, "On the Alamo" is smooth jazz showcasing the dual guitar playing skills of Greg Harkins and Jeremy Wheeless. It's About Dam Time showcases a variety of tempos and solos and all blend well together.
Emily Ann Gimble is the standout vocalist of the Marhsall Ford Swing Band. Her voice has a classic jazz sound and could be a contemporary of Norah Jones. Every song that Emily has the lead on becomes better because her vocals are added; her first vocal on the album comes from "Trouble, Trouble" and the song is just a door to Emily's skills. The beautiful tone of Emily's voice is emphasized in light "The Barroom Waltz," but there is such a calming ease when she sings "Marie." Her vocals easily glide from high to low notes. Emily emits a comfort in how she sings even if it's just in the background.
The vocals of Greg Harkins and James Gwyn are average, with a low point with the opening track "Lyla Lou." While Greg sounds decent in "The Girl I Left Behind Me," the emphasis is less on Greg than it is celebrating an old folk song. The group sections of the song was the best representation to fit that folk/shanty feeling. Greg does the best job with his vocals on "Dreamin'," a song that he penned, displaying that he understands how to use his own voice in original music. Similarly, "Pickles n Tomatoes," another song penned by Harkins, has cheeky lyrics that works well with his own voice. Combined with Emily, like in "In a Shanty in Old Shanty Town" they blend beautifully. In future albums I hope that Harkins continues to explore his composition skills because he knows what suits his voice best.