Don Burnham isn’t exactly stepping away from his 8- to 22-piece western swing band Lost Weekend because all of the players on his “solo” CD, I Dreamed Count Basie Was a Cowboy, are members of Lost Weekend’s extended family. Considering the natural ebb and flow of personnel in a band that’s been around over a quarter of a century, this band has out-grown family. By now it’s a tribe.
Lost Weekend, the band, built its name by covering songs by Bob Wills, Cindy Walker, the Light Crust Doughboys and like-minded western swing pioneers. Don Burnham, the band’s leader, has turned his attention to writing his own material, often updating the topical content while keeping the music true to its roots. “Apple and Google and Gold,” the release that launched the Don Burnham era, is a case in point. It’s a cowboy’s lament about sinking one’s life savings into Enron, dot-coms and sub-prime mortgages instead of investments that soared rather than sunk. Bob Wills never even wrote about the Great Depression, where Don Burnham is ready to face 21st century economics lock, stock and 401K. Video: Apple and Google and Gold. “Ex Factor,” a heartbreaking tale of woe about having your date walk off with her ex-whatever, is also better suited to our times than times gone by.
Write what you know is the CD’s credo, and this leads to tunes like “I Dreamed Count Basie was a Cowboy” and “Go, Man, Go,” which are a virtual lessons in how to arrange a western swing band; “Emmett” (Miller, 1900-1962) is a history about the man who, as Don Burnham and Wikipedia tell it, was the first to make a country jazz band swing; “A Dog’s Life” is an operator’s manual for living like a dog in the positive, rather than the pejorative, sense; and “Driving Lesson,” is exactly what its title claims. (The mystery question about this song is, “Did cars really have seat-belts to fasten when young Donald learned to drive?”)
Taken as a whole the musicianship is top shelf as decades in the business have brought Don some highly talented friends. The songs move easily between swing, bop, boogie, and ballads combined with wink of humor, a dash of life, a touch of romance and a lot of fun.
Watch the HWS calendar for CD release parties coming soon.