Review by Fred Rudofsky
Photographs by Ed Conway
On a summer-like night in Troy, the Ale House was rocked for more than two and a half hours by the Californian rockabilly, surf, blues and western swing of Big Sandy & His Fly-Rite Boys – some patrons even dancing on the sidewalk.
For 25 years, roots music fans have known just how dynamic this band from San Diego is. Though the line-up has changed occasionally over the years, the band has toured consistently and recorded more than 10 albums. Aside from leading his own group, vocalist Big Sandy is also known for his guest work with Los Straitjackets, as many who attended a legendary Alive at Five event a few years ago will recall. He is one of the most versatile singers and cordial entertainers on the scene today.
With the crowd seated all the way up to the stage, the quartet knew it was go-time, opening with uptempo favorite “Heaven Is the Other Way” and the jump blues call to tear it up, even on a Tuesday night, “It’s Time.” Big Sandy sang like a lost sun of Memphis and played his acoustic guitar with fervor; Kevin Stewart had sweat pouring down the fretboard of his upright bass; Chris Sprague hit the drums with brushes and an ever-present grin; and the remarkable Ashley Kingman earned his pints of ale, ripping out solos from a 1957 custom Magnatone guitar. “Tequila Callin’,” by request, earned the crowd the second of many toasts from Big Sandy, who could not resist getting the drinkers in the crowd to sing along on the chorus.