A lot of noise is being made about the Rolling Stones' longevity, but compared to these guys the Stones are brash youngsters. Never mind the ages of the individual band members (only drummer Ben Sandmel is under 60; two others are octogenarians)--the band itself, at 64 years old, is eligible for a senior citizen's discount. But they play with a joie de vivre that groups one-tenth their age should envy. The Ramblers are a dance band, and they've honed their craft over decades of playing their crowd-pleasing blend of western swing, country and western, and Cajun music in the honky-tonks and dance halls of southwest Louisiana and east Texas. For a band that's been together so long, they're remarkably loose on stage; they've long since learned that delivery counts far more than perfect execution when you want to get people on their feet, and a spirit of spontaneous fun suffuses their performances. On their wonderful new album Cajun Boogie (released on the local Flying Fish label), a host of guests connect bayou music's past (retired member Crawford Vincent) to its present and future (country star Rodney Crowell and Beausoleil violinist Michael Doucet), but onstage they do just fine without any help. The Hackberry Ramblers appear as part of the 13th annual American Music Festival on Saturday, 5 and 8 PM, FitzGerald's, 6615 W. Roosevelt, Berwyn; 708-788-2118. They will also be at the Chicago Country Music Festival next Saturday, July 9, 6:45 PM, on the Taste Stage, Michigan and Congress; 744-3370.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Philip Gould.