The cheer that burst forth from the music of The Time Jumpers last night at the Lexington Opera House was in no way subtle. You heard it in the scholarly but often carefree musicianship, the commanding but unassuming singing and the glossary of traditionally minded songs and styles this 11 member pack of Nashville all-stars could summon on a whim.
And then there were those moments so uncalculated but still so overtly upbeat that you couldn’t help but get swept up in the fun. Take, for instance, when Dawn Spears, one of the seven group members that took turns on lead vocals, announced she was going to sing a sad country song only to collapse in a fit of laughter so sustaining that reinforcements had to be called in.
Luckily, The Time Jumpers had plenty. Fiddler and de facto group leader Kenny Sears (Dawn’s husband) summoned Ranger Doug Green (of Riders in the Sky fame) to sing the sublime Western reverie Ridin’ on the Rio, one of five tunes offered from the group’s 2012 self-titled sophomore album.
But the giggles hardly got the best of Dawn Sears. She followed with the 1983 Vern Gosdin hit If You’re Gonna Do Me Wrong (Do It Right), a solemn blast of traditional country heartbreak that was almost operatic in intensity. Not a bad trick, especially considering she was seated last night next to Vince Gill, who isn’t exactly a slouch of a singer himself.
That was the evening’s lone confessional, its only thematic ill wind. The rest of the near two hour show was devoted to music with a fluidity that was almost orchestral in design and a musical temperament that was continually sunny.
Two luminous examples were the instrumentals All Aboard and Texoma Bound, workouts that emphasized the band’s trio of fiddlers (Kenny Sears, Larry Franklin and Joe Spivey). Similarly good natured and free spirited was Kenny Sears’ Nothing But the Blues, a wry but light-as-a-feather dismissal of depression (“When my baby left me, I thought that I would die… but I didn’t.”), and the continually fascinating solo turns taken by pedal steel guitarist Paul Franklin.
Gill got his two cents in with Six Pack to Go, which was served as a leisurely blues light on desperation and high on the playful, animated solos and melodic runs that helped define The Time Jumpers’ tradition-minded, retro-inclined Americana fun.