Tuesday, February 12, 2013

The Time Jumpers Bring Country Back to Washington

The Time Jumpers Bring Country Back to Washington
By Philip Crabtree
Washington, DC, was treated with a caliber of music on Thursday that is seldom talked about unless witnessed in person. Nashville, Tenn., super group The Time Jumpers kicked off their east coast tour at The Hamilton just one block away from the White House.
I call them a super group, because the resume’ of their individual performers is nothing short of phenomenal. Take pedal steel guitar player Paul Franklin for example. Franklin has been named the ACM Pedal Steel Guitar Player of the Year eleven times. Franklin’s career expands more than five decades now and includes performing with artists in very different genres to include Barbara Mandrell, Sting, Megadeth, Barbara Streisand, and the King of Country, George Strait.
The other musicians and singers are no less great than Paul Franklin is. Lead vocalists Kenny and Dawn Sears take you on a musical journey with The Time Jumpers that harkens back to a day when neon lit up the night sky and social media consisted of turning on the radio and dancing with your best girl in the glow of car headlights. The velvety smoothness of Dawn’s voice seduces your ear and makes you forget about any troubles you left at the door when you came in. Combined with Kenny’s western twang, classical violin training, and decades of fiddling experience and the band transposes the audience to a place where western swing reigns supreme and the family radio helped keep the family together.
The entire band shares similar credentials that include decades of playing on the albums of numerous musical greats as session musicians as well as their own bands and playing live with Willie Nelson, Asleep at the Wheel, McBride and the Ride, Vince Gill, Brian Wilson, and The Chieftains. Between them, they have been awarded 24 Grammy’s, 18 CMA Awards, World Champion Fiddler titles, and have been recognized for not only their musicianship but also their songwriting prowess.
The Time Jumpers brought all of this to bear when they brought traditional country music back to America’s capital city Feb. 7. With the band playing “Texoma Bound”, the intro from their self-title album, the Grand Ole Opry came to The Hamilton and mixed with the usual urban beats that promulgate through the city. Once the crowd was warmed up, Kenny Sears led the band in their rendition of Bob Wills’ “Sugar Moon”. Most of the show featured legendary artist and band member Vince Gill singing with Dawn Keys on such numbers as “New Star Over Texas” and “San Antonio Rose”.
“This is a dream come true for me,” said Sears. “I hope you’re enjoying what you’re hearing and what I get to share on stage.”
Dawn’s hopes are well placed. I thoroughly enjoyed the almost 3-hour show as did the rest of the sold out crowd that attended. Although the room was very intimate, with tables just three or four feet away from the stage, some couples were able to find a little floor space to get up and dance to the solid rhythms and melodies coming from the 10-member band. Most of the night, it seemed another couple would steal the spotlight as Brad Alvin swung his bass fiddle back and forth while backing up the front row. If his bass had a flexible neck, I’m sure she would have been dipped more than once as she danced on stage with Brad.
The character of The Time Jumpers’ sound is not only characterized by its sweet-as-molasses vocals and jazz and country infused guitar. It is also defined by the three piece fiddle section comprised of band leader Kenny Sears, Larry Franklin, and Joe Spivey. When these men put bows to strings, you can hear the whine of a freight train charging down the track at you. This is not the kind of train you leap away from, though. This one hits right in the chest throws you aboard, promising you the ride of your life.
Considering how accomplished the musicians in The Time Jumpers are, thought to turn to those of “where have they been”. They have been playing in Nashville in a very loose and casual atmosphere. They’ve been known to get together backstage at the Opry just to pick around and eventually started playing together at the Station Inn on Monday nights, usually know to be pretty slow for customers.
Word got out they were having these jam sessions there and guests like Robert Plant, Bonnie Raitt, and Sheryl Crow started sitting in. Vince Gill was also one of those who would sit in and eventually joined the band. Eventually, Monday nights became packed, and the band had to change venues. They now play at the legendary 3rd & Lindsley on Monday nights where they have a bit more room.
The band is now out on tour to support their first studio album, which was recorded at Vince Gill’s home studio. “We didn’t start the band to tour,” says Kenny Sears. “We never expected any commercial success with it.” As it goes sometimes in life, things can get out of hand. As Kenny explains, “There’s a faction of people who love our music.” Hearing their music, seeing their live show, and watching how people respond to it, they may not have a choice.
“Maybe we can turn The Time Jumpers into something we can tour with. We’re awfully proud of what we’re doing,” Kenny says.
Some have criticized whether or not there is still a place for traditional country music. The Time Jumpers, their fans, and their peers prove there is plenty of room for them. They were nominated for two Grammys this year for Best Country Album and Best Vocal Performance by a Duo or Group country music. While the awards went to the Little Big Town and the Zac Brown Band respectively, they have shown that their special blend of western swing, jazz, big band, and traditional country music is developing a following and is a force to reckon with.
The Time Jumpers will continue to tour along the east coast of the U.S. through this week, playing in Virginia, New York, Maine, and Pennsylvania. They will return to Nashville and their regular venue at 3rd &Lindsley on Feb. 18. Keep an eye out for other shows this year including one in Lexington, Kentucky, and two planned shows in Switzerland. For more information, go to their website at www.thetimejumpers.com.

About the author: Philip Crabtree holds a B.S. in Recording Industry Management from Middle Tennessee State University, and he is currently pursuing a master’s degree in Public Relations from Georgetown University in Washington, DC, where he is focusing on the entertainment industry. He serves in the U.S. Army as a public affairs officer and is president of Double C Publicity, LLC. He can be reached at philipcrabtree@doublecpublicity.com

Kenny Sears pulls a bow across his fiddle as his wife Dawn Sears lends her smooth voice to another great tune by The Time Jumpers. (Photo by Philip Crabtree)

The three-piece fiddle section of The Time Jumpers consisting of (from left to right) Larry Franklin, Joe Spivey, and Kenny Sears. (Photo by Philip Crabtree)

Vince Gill lends his world renowned tenor voice to ballad accompanied by The Time Jumpers bass fiddle player, Brad Alvin. (Photo by Philip Crabtree)

Vince Gill (left) and Paul Franklin (right) fill the room at The Hamilton with the unique sound The Time Jumpers have become known for. (Photo by Philip Crabtree)

Kenny and Dawn Sears share a laugh as Vince Gill shares another one of his colorful stories about family and music. Along with being the “Guitar Slinger”, Gill is a masterful and captivating storyteller. (Photo by Philip Crabtree)
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