There aren’t many genres of music in the American lexicon that have come as far as country has in the last century, but for singer/songwriter Carlos Washington and his Steel Horse Swing, playing to the standards of the style’s most legendary era works just fine. Critics have been talking about Washington’s new record Little Bit of Texas a lot lately, and you really needn’t give its ten songs more than a cursory listen to understand what all of the hype has been about. In Little Bit of Texas’ cornerstone moments, such as its title track, “I Can Still Make Cheyenne” and “The King of Western Swing,” we don’t just obtain access to a sterling country harmony or two; we get a musical bridge to the past that couldn’t have arrived at a better time than the present.
As critical to any of the swinging grooves in this record as the drums are, the strings in this new record from Carlos Washington’s Steel Horse Swing at times toy with Django Reinhardt-esque rhythms (see the fun “I Am a Cowboy Y’all” for the best example of this comparison in action), but by and large I would say that they steer more towards traditional melodies than they do anything overly experimental (“I’m Coming Home” and “House of Blue Lights” sound like excerpts from the Great American Songbook re-stylized specifically for the pleasure of country fans). It’s not hard to appreciate the sound this act pulled together here, but for serious country addicts, this is as formidable release as you could ask for in the puritan sect of the genre.
I would love to hear “The King of Western Swing,” “My Little Red Wagon,” “Sugar Moon” and “It Was Love at First Swing” live sometime, because in this album, they sound as though they were always conceived with the intention of getting the crowd roaring inside of any venue, big and small alike. Washington’s presence as a frontman is something to be revered in Little Bit of Texas, and if it were to stay as magnetizing on the stage as it is in this capacity, his rivals on both sides of the country spectrum are going to have a lot to worry about in the next few years of his career.
If what I’m hearing in Carlos Washington’s Steel Horse Swing’s Little Bit of Texas is going to act as but a mere taste of what this crew is going to put out in the future, I definitely think we’re going to be seeing their name making headlines in the country music world for a long time to come. There’s zero pretentiousness for us to get through in this LP, and where other artists might have filled in the edges with predictable concepts and familiarities best left on the sidelines in a new album, Carlos Washington does everything he can to keep us glued to our speakers waiting to hear what’s coming around the next bend in the road. He’s got my attention, and once you’ve heard Little Bit of Texas, I believe he’ll have yours as well.