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Orange County Weekly
A flood of seriously good new roots CDs
by Buddy Seigal

Lavay Smith
My desk is brimming with an unusually bountiful stack of excellent new CD releases. Among the best is Everybody's Talkin' 'Bout Miss Thing (Fat Note Records), the sophomore effort from San Francisco's LAVAY SMITH & HER RED HOT SKILLET LICKERS. I didn't want to like this group, as their name is pilfered from Gid Tanner & His Skillet Lickers, a popular hillbilly string band of the '20s. Plus the whole retro swing fashion thing still makes Daddy want to catapult his cookies (lose the cartoon nostalgia crap and I'll follow you anywhere, guys). But dig this righteous jive, daddy-os (pppuuukkkkeee!): Lavay and her boys are simply without peer in the neo-swing scene. That's because they're not "neo" at all—the Skillet Lickers are bona fide jazz players, proffering chops and Basie-esque arrangements to shame all other modern groups of their ilk. Then there's Smith, whose sultry vocals readily betray the influence of Billie Holiday, Little Esther and Dinah Washington while sounding slavish to none. In short, this is a contemporary swing band that actually swings, as in the verb. Bonus: following an all-covers first album, the group now includes solid, credible originals—even though they stole Eddie "Cleanhead" Vinson's patented "Kidney Stew" riff on "The Busy Woman's Blues." We'll call it an homage.

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