Best cover song

Swing Dusters nominated for New Mexico Music Awards

Posted 5/28/20

Robert Parsons formed the Swing Dusters as a dance band specializing in Western swing classics and standards from the American songbook.

This January the Swing Dusters held a CD release party for their first album, "That's Your Red Wagon." One of the songs from that CD has been nominated for New Mexico Music Awards Best Cover Song.

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Best cover song

Swing Dusters nominated for New Mexico Music Awards

Posted

Robert Parsons formed the Swing Dusters as a dance band specializing in Western swing classics and standards from the American songbook.

This January the Swing Dusters held a CD release party for their first album, "That's Your Red Wagon." One of the songs from that CD has been nominated for New Mexico Music Awards Best Cover Song.

The song, "You Don't Know Me," was written by Cindy Walker for Eddy Arnold (aka the Tennessee Plowboy) back in 1955 and first recorded by Arnold on RCA Victor. It has since been recorded by such musical greats as Ray Charles, Elvis Presley, Crystal Gale, Roy Orbison, Bette Midler, Emmylou Harris, Allison Krauss, Kenny Rogers, Harry Connick Jr. and Willie Nelson.

The Swing Dusters version of "You Don't Know Me" is an emotionally rich rendition that makes full use of the band members' talents with Parsons on guitar, Melody Romancito on vocals, Rick de Stefano on keyboard, Markus Kolber on bass, Rachael Penn on fiddle, Wayne McKinzie on saxophone and Ray Vollmer on drums.

The recording was made and mastered by Jon Gold of Gold Mine Audio & Mastering in Valdez. The song can be purchased in digital form on Bandcamp, or you can order the full CD by emailing swingdusters@gmail.com.

Parsons told me in a phone interview that he first found out about the nomination from a friend of his who had seen the listings on the New Mexico Music Awards website. What was his response?

"Wow! How about that?" Parsons said.

When I asked him why he chose to record the song, Parsons said, "It has great chords and melody. It's a wonderful song to play, and lots of fun."

Parsons said he chose to submit the song because it highlighted each of the players. "Melody just did such a fabulous job on it," he added.

"It's just a perfect song, lyrically. It's a joy to sing," said Romancito in a phone interview.

Romancito said Ray Charles is so distinctive in how he renders tunes that she needed to listen to other singers as well. In particular, Romancito said she listened to Willie Nelson's rendition since she feels he is good at taking classics and fitting them into a swing, country context. She also immersed herself in the feeling of the song, which is about an unrequited love.

"You can't be casual and deliver lyrics about that kind of thing," said Romancito.

As she was listening to the song on YouTube, Romancito said a video popped up of Cindy Walker herself. She was speaking about how she came to write "You Don't Know Me." In it, Walker says that Arnold came to her with the song title and an idea for a theme. At the time Walker had no idea where to go with it, but a few weeks later the song came to her. It is worth hearing Walker tell the story in her own words.

Walker was born in Mexia, Texas, in 1918 and buried there in 2006. She wrote hundreds of songs over the course of her lifetime, with hundreds making it onto the pop and country music charts. Walker became a charter member of the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1970 and was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1997. The next year, she was inducted into the Texas Country Music Hall of Fame, and in 2011 into theTexas Heritage Songwriters Hall of Fame.

I caught up with several other Swing Dusters by email. Fiddle player Rachael Penn said she was really excited to learn about the nomination. This is her second time being nominated for the NMMA. Penn sang harmonies on "Purple Kind of Blue," an album by solo artist Meredith Blis, which won Best Pop album in 2006.

Kolber said being a Swing Duster has given him the opportunity to grow as a bass player without being kept in that box. He sings several songs in the Swing Dusters' repertoire, and has created a creative mashup of "Take Me Back to Tulsa" with "Iko, Iko." He said the best part of being part of the band is the camaraderie he has with his bandmates.

"There's really nothing quite as exciting as sharing a stage and all the experiences of performance and growing closer to other creative people," Kolber said.

Saxophone player McKinzie said he has enjoyed the arrangements and variety of music that is played by the Swing Dusters. He also commented on working with Jon Gold.

"Jon is the consummate professional. His work is of the highest quality. I was living out of Taos when the decision came to record the album. I drove down and spent nights on Jon's couch and two days laying down sax tracks. We painstakingly recorded, rerecorded, listened and relistened to tracks until the sax felt like it fit with each track of the album. Jon's 'ear' and his knowledge of recording, mic placement, editing and mastering is on par with the best."

De Stefano said he is pleased, proud and thrilled by the NMMA nomination. He has been nominated twice before. In 2002, he was nominated for his song "Waitress at the Donut Shop" on his solo album "Another Hard Year in Taos," and in 2012 he earned a second nomination for "'57 Chevy" performed by his band "Little Leroy and The Blue Reys." De Stefano co-wrote "'57 Chevy" and the song was recorded and mastered by Gold.

The New Mexico Music Awards usually hosts an annual banquet and show where the winners are announced. This year, that has been postponed due to the COVID-19 situation. This is the 33rd year that the awards have recognized musical talent in New Mexico. For more information about the Swing Dusters, visit the group at swingdusters.com.

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