Behind The Barn with The B-Stars (Rust Belt Recordings, 2010)
“Hailing from San Francisco, this five-piece band is simply marvellous as is the music which they are all responsible for. Sounding as though it has come straight out of a Texas honky-tonk, they demonstrate that despite the digital tinkering in Nashville there is still a strong appetite for music like this which sounds as though it was recorded straight onto vinyl.“Women And Wine” is arranged differently from the others with the main vocals driving the song forward. An all-round, bona fide great tune it also has the added benefit of the pedal steel being used to sound like a train. Not saying this is the only fantastic track as there are many examples to choose from such as the superb “Pretty Baby.” Opened up by rockabilly piano tinkling, this is country and western music performed as it should be with many other songs on this record following the fine example of this tune. As Waylon Jennings sang about in “Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way?” this band certainly does. If only mainstream Nashville acts followed the example laid down by the B Stars, country music would improve dramatically.”
“A few months ago, amid the CDs that arrive at CMP hoping for a review was a 7” 45 rpm vinyl single. I enjoyed the irony of how receiving a vinyl single in 2012 was such an effective piece of promotion, and I enjoyed firing up the Technics to hear it, even if it would have been simpler to go on-line and visit CD Baby. That single featured two tracks by San Francisco combo The B-Stars and I’ve been waiting for the full-length album since. Incidentally, eight tracks from this album are available on 10” vinyl for the “full high fidelity experience.”
The band describes their swingin’ hillbilly sound as “a hearty stew of honky tonk and hillbilly hits” and are rooted firmly in the 40s and 50s. They’re retro and proud of it, and this, their second full-length album,was recorded on analog tape to capture the warmth and feel of a 1950s recording. The seeds of these purveyors of the Western boogie beat were sown when main man Greg Yanito teamed up with upright bassist Eric Reedy in 2005 (Yanito and Reedy also supply the nine original songs here). The current line-up is a five piece capable of putting the bop in your country better than probably anybody since Big Sandy & His Fly-Rite Boys. Of course it doesn’t hurt having Dave Stuckey producing, as he himself made the modern day swingin’ cowboy boogie album by which all others will be judged, Get A Load OfThis, twelve years ago, and if anyone knows his way around an authentic sound it’s him. And authentic it is. The original tunes perfectly capture the spirit of their heroes Lefty Frizzell, Carl Smith, Hank Penny, Faron Young, Bob Wills, and Hank Williams Sr. – When The Darkness Turns to Light is very Hank Sr. and I’ll bet Wayne Hancock wishes he’d written it. No Work Blues is similarly Williams-esque.
The covers include the Groovy Joe Poovey rockabilly classic from 1958, Careful Baby, the Western Swing standard MyWindow Faces The South, and the nicely obscure Bobby Sisco track, Honky Tonkin’ Rhythm which is sure to be equally welcomed by the rockabilly crowd as much as it will the lovers of vintage country. These sharp dressed guys sure can keep the toes tapping and dance floors boppin’ and if you’re partial to Big Sandy, Wayne Hancock, or even BR5- 49 you won’t go wrong with WestCoast Special.” –Duncan Warwick, November 2012, COUNTRY MUSIC PEOPLE
From the cover art on you know what you going to get from The B-Stars; five guys in matching snap button shirts, white neckerchiefs and short brimmed western hats playing upright steel, double bass and vintage guitars. You won’t be disappointed if that’s the kind of music that appeals to you. Thank goodness there are a host of acts through the years who play hillbilly bop and country boogie that is a galaxy away from what Nashville calls country these days.
Here there is a sense of fun and fulfillment present that suggests these guys know they are never going to sell tons of records or play to arenas, but that doesn’t take away from the music on offer. Skillful re-creators, they capture a sound that raises a smile and gets the feet moving. There is an argument against such studied retro-revivalism, but without bands like the B-Stars keeping the music alive many would not experience first hand the joys of the music from an earlier era.
These guys write solid original songs that seem like classics, which is a bonus and a reason for any band to put out their own albums. Mixed with covers like My Window Faces the South and Honky Tonkin’ Rhythm are a set of songs written by band members Greg Yanito and Eric Reedy that sound right and righteous. Add the B-Stars to that list of band who make music for the very best reasons and who are so obviously in love with what they do that the infectiousness is catching and makes West Coast Special well – special.
“The San Francisco based B-Stars’ latest is a collection of authentic honky-tonk tunes with a touch of western swing. The influence of Hank Williams is strong, particularly on Honky Tonkin’ Rhythm and No Work Blues, which features yodeling reminiscent of the Williams classic Long Gone Lonesome Blues.
One of the better tunes is When the Darkness Turns to Light, on which Greg Yanito’s vocals recall Wayne Hancock. Other standout honky-tonk tracks are King of Fools and One More Beer, reminiscent of some of the work of Carl Smith. The standout Revolution 45 celebrates the era of jukeboxes and vinyl records. The western swing sound of Asleep at the Wheel is evident on My Window Faces the South, while the opening track, Careful Baby, has the more modern swing feel of Big Sandy and His Fly-Rite Boys.
The instrumentation is excellent throughout with Yanito (vocals, rhythm guitar), Eric Reedy (vocals, upright bass), Billy “Possum” Zelinski (drums), Pierre Laik (electric guitar) and Larry Chung (steel guitar, fiddle). Produced by Dave “Pappy” Stuckey (Dave and Deke Combo) along with the band members, The B-Stars entertain.
-Robert Wooldridge, Country Standard Time (Oct 2012)