Red Light!

Red Light!

Indigo Swing
Time Bomb Recordings, San Francisco, CA. 1999
Produced by Indigo Swing
Baron Shul - saxophones, flute
William Beatty - piano, vocals
"Big Jim" Overton - drums
Josh Workman - guitar, vocals
Vance Ehlers - string bass
Johnny Boyd, "The Swing Lover" - lead vocals

Following what appears to be their basic strategy, Indigo Swing has put several good slower tracks that appeal to a very wider segment of the swing dance market, including West Coast Swing! Their music can be heard in most of the swing dance classes in the area and many of these dance students rush off to get that great music they heard in class so they'll have something to practice with. Red Light, Indigo Swing's new CD, continues that tradition (whether intended or not) with a core set of songs that will be played often in dance classes and at area dances.

Indigo Swing
promo picture My personal favorites include the title track, Red Light!, as well as Big Hair Mama and Ruby Mae; Another Day in LA is a good medium-tempo that should fill the dance floor. Big Hair Mama sounds hauntingly like So Long! from their previous CD, All Aboard!; I wonder if that was done on purpose. Ruby Mae reminds me of that smooth R&B music that reminds me of the way West Coast Swing should be danced. Pianist William Beatty gets to shine with his boogie woogie style of piano in Hot Pot Boogie. Naturally, an Indigo Swing cd would not be complete without Johnny "The Swing Lover" Boyd singing a ballad on the release, as he does with So Far Away From Me.

No one else has knocked Indigo Swing down from their standing as my favorite swing dance band. I don't expect that to ever happen.


From their promotional flyer:

The appeal of Indigo Swing is hard to understand without witnessing first-hand the musical phenomenon they have helped to create. They turn out a sound drawn from early rock and roll, jump blues, boogie woogie, and World War II-era sweet swing. You only have to check the scene when Indigo Swing hits the stae to understand that this isn't some retro trend. In face, it's all about the moment, a moment right now, at the cusp of the millennium, amid a time of peace, prosperity and optimism unparalleled in the 20th century. It's about a generation every day demonstrating that technology means big community not Big Brother and that the future looks brighter when you don't turn your back on glowing moments in the past.

Coming off the runaway success of last year's All Aboard!, the band has done it again with their second Time Bomb Recordings release, Red Light! Recorded in the legardary Studio B at Hollywood's Capitol Studios, the album brims with authenticity. Listen to singer Johnny Boyd's reedy voice and naive phrasing, staccato with enthusiasm and trilling with flirtatiousness. It echoes with the kind of slapback that Sam Phillips elevated to an art on the voice of Elvis Presley. Immediatelyk obvious is that Indigo Swing definitely sweats the details. Josh WOrkman's guitar time-travels on every tune, ranging from Charlie Christian's gentle vamps and considered melodies of the late '30s to Chuck Berry's distortion and drive from the '50s (the generation that inspired the term "teen-ager", by the way). Tenor saaxman Baron Shul plays flamboyant like Sam Butera when the band struts and just as easily turns inward and moody like Lester Young for ballads. The rhythm section of string bassist Vance Ehlers and drummer "Big Jim" Overton keep the groove...well, solid—yes. More than that, though, they keep it moving, gliding, doing a step every bit as elegant as a foxtrot or as suggestive as a down-tempo grind. Amid it all, pianist William Beatty's Count Basie plinking or Earl "Fatha" hines stride never lets you forget that this music echoes an era when pop was personal, either right-there-on-stage or as close as a nickel in the diner's jukebox. Add it all together and you get Indigo Swing's singular style, a fresh take on the many genres that set the foundation for modern pop music done wihtout compromising any of the immediacy of the MTV generation.

But the traditiona-savvy sound doesn't mean lo-fi. Give Red Light! a spin and you quickly get a feeling for what it's like deep in the dance floor on one of Indigo Swing's 300 live shows a year. It's a make-or-break date! The album opens with engaging enthusiasm and somewhere along the line arises above the dance floor bustle for a savvy look at the world around them. Untimately, though, Red Light!, is about having fun. Whether looking for romance ("Love's Gonna Find You") and living life in style ("Don't Worry So Much") or tossing good-natured barbs at your pals ("Stayin' Up Late With Sonny "—featuring Baron on the flute and a duet between Johnny and Indigo's piano-man William), Indigo Swing's themes are as enduring as a country-blues work song and as current as this week's pop charts.

Give a listen to Another Day In LA, outlining the interior monologue of a hungry player who wants to blow a few choruses of the blues and get noticed. It's a tale of youthful ambition and sincere yearning to find a place in a big world told with unaffected charm. Or Ruby Mae , a dark ballad with aching atmospherics: a deliberate, long-haul tempo and a three-part vocal refrain that sounds like the lonely whistle of a train. The song shows that family isn't just about the people who live under the same roof—it's about people who take an interest in their fellows wherever they find them.

So stop trying to analyze the return of the reet pleat and stuff cuff. Grab your date and get out there. Live with style and abandon. Respect your neighbors. And if you bump someone, give them a smile and spin your partner with a flourish...and dance a little harder.

For more publicity information, contact Michele Bedrick at 949-499-8338 or write to

Since this review was written, lead singer Johnny Boyd had left the band and gone solo. The band had picked up another singer, but was not actively playing recording or performing, though it was rumored that they do get together to perform as Indigo Swing if hired.

TrackTitle Length BPM suggested dance
1Red Light! 4:05133Swing/fast WCS
2The Best You Can 2:56135Swing
3Pop's at the Hop 2:39246Balboa
4Another Day In La 4:13152Swing
5Love's Gonna Find You 2:53172Mambo?
6Hot Pot Boogie 3:02200Lindy Hop/Balboa
7Big Hair Mama 3:14114WCS/Swing
8Don't Worry So Much 3:46 
9They Say I Must Be Crazy 2:37 
10Stayin' Up Late with Sonny3:28131Swing
11I Know My Love Is True 2:52240Lindy Hop
12Ruby Mae 4:39107WCS!
13So Far Away From Me 3:54n/aschmooze/waltz
14Guiliaume's Pepper Step 3:06199

The other CD's

Red Light! All Aboard

Updated May 5, 1999

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