Western Swang at Homefront

By Paul Moffett

Stuart Robinson, benefactor of the Presbyterian Church, must have been spinning in his grave on Saturday, April 11. Robinson, for whom the Stuart Robinson Auditorium was named, was a severe man who disapproved of music and dancing, particularly in church.

On the Saturday night in question, not only was there western roadhouse music (!) butdancing as well. Liz Masterson and Sean Blackburn weren't dancing, but they did make the dancing music. The duo combined with the Great Midwestern Swing Orchestra to present a full evening of the kind of Western swing tunes that used to define the tag end of "Country and Western" music.

Art Stamper fiddled as Liz Masterson curtseyed after sitting in with the Great Midwestern Swing Orchestra.

Masterson and Blackburn dressed the part and played in the style. Liz Masterson was attired in a frilly, rhinestone-spotted turquoise dress, red boots and hat and a red chili pepper necklace (with real peppers). Sean Blackburn sported a mustache of immense proportions that was as black as his outfit. Their sets featured textbook renditions of such swing classics as Patsy Montana's "I Only Want a Buddy, Not a Sweetheart," "Roll on Little Pony" from the Sons of the Pioneers and the Floyd Tillman tune "I'll Keep on Loving You," as well as numerous Bob Wills tunes.

The duo could be classified as closet folk musicologists. Blackburn commented during a break that they're just trying to keep the music alive. To that end, they are seriously involved in staging a swing music camp in Elkins, West Virginia, that hotbed of Western culture, as well as being members of the Western Swing Association.

Authenticity was clearly the watchword, as Blackburn reproduced, as faithfully as possible, the guitar parts of the period. There were also many sotto voce comments from the performers. Truth to tell, those remarks will probably work better on the radio than they did in the Robinson Auditorium, where many of them were lost in the noise of the large electric fans parked in the non-air-conditioned room.

The Great Midwestern Swing Orchestra, on the other hand, was Nineties casual and hot as a Louisville parking lot in August. The group was essentially a pick-up band assembled by Bruce Krohmer, reed man for the Buzzard Rock String Band. Krohmer, who now lives in Washington, D. C., also fronted the group, which included Steve Cooley, banjo and guitar player with the Dillards, on guitar; noted bluegrass fiddler Art Stamper; New Horizon mandolinist and Louisville Mandolin Orchestra founder Michael Schroeder; Tony Meyers of Memphis Beck and the Red Hots on guitar; and Norton Schroeder on upright bass.

The Orchestra covered a number of familiar tunes, not all of which were exactly swing tunes. Nevertheless, they did well, what with all the excellent pickers available to take a hot turn.

The show, which normally includes two separate radio programs, was interrupted and stretched by the audience's retreat into the street and nearby Central Park to watch the "Thunder Over Louisville" fireworks which were visible from two miles away. As a result, the performers cooled off, the audience shrank and the last radio show was considerably rougher, with everyone's timing off justso, including the Homefront crew.

Homefront is broadcast on WFPL FM 89, on Sundays at 1:00. For exact scheduling, call the station.

The May 9 Homefront show will feature Jonell Mosser and singer/songwriter John Herald of the Greenbriar Boys. That show will be moved to the First Unitarian Church at 4th and York.