Only in a burgeoning economy can something as unlikely as a resurgence of swing music happen.
Think about it — a bunch of dot-com babies giddy on inflated market expectations and a tight job market can afford the dress code to get into cigar and martini bars.
So what does that mean for the Prairie Cats now that the New Economy bottom has fallen out? Not a damn thing.
‘Til the Daytime Fades, the Omaha, Nebraska ensemble’s second disc, find the Cats with stronger songs and a more confident sound.
The band’s debut album, The Big One, laid out the blueprint for the Prairie Cat’s muse — swing music that ventured here and there to Latin-tinged rhythms and good ol’ country conventions, all performed with a rock ‘n’ roll verve.
As a recording, The Big One held its own, but it didn’t quite succeed in capturing the Cats’ live show energy. Frontman Jeff Koterba has an appealing croon, but the vocal contributions of trombone player Jason Grotelueschen and Amy Stickney hinted the ensemble was capable of much more.
‘Til the Daytime Fades delivers on that potential.
This time around, Koterba shares the mic and the songwriting duties with Grotelueschen, whose Midwestern voice provides the perfect foil to Koterba’s lounge lizard act.
Grotelueschen’ songs puts the “Prairie” in “Prairie Cats”. “Honeychild” has a kind of bluesy feel that would sound at home with a pedal steel as with a big band. “One Night Stan” could have been honky-tonk song.
Koterba, meanwhile, channels some 8 1/2 Souvenirs with the very French “Lover du Jour” and even provides a sobering, humorous insight into the plight of swing bands with “Not in the Mood.” (Drop “not” in the title, and you get a sense of what the song talks about.)
The Cats’ solos definitely burn hotter on this album, and the trumpets are much more pronounced. Even a number as mellow as “Five Martinis and a Beer” feels like an improvisational workout.
The core of the band’s music is still fast-paced swing, as evidenced by “Takin’ a Chance”, “Never Said” and “Swing That Thang”, but this time out, there’s enough variety from track to track to keep listeners interested throughout the album.
Even swing music skeptics (raises hand) find themselves chanting along with the Cats.
In other words, the Cats are a good thing getting better.