PENINSULA PULSE: TIME JUMPERS TO SWING DOOR COMMUNITY AUDITORIUM

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The collective musical history that takes the stage of the Door Community Auditorium on Friday, June 28 in the form of The Time Jumpers is mind blowing, but the band of 11 Nashville musical luminaries has a different outlook.

“The fact that somebody would come see us on the road blows our minds,” said 20-time Grammy winner Vince Gill, who serves as one of the guitarists and singers in The Time Jumpers.

The Time Jumpers began in the late 1990s as a way for top-flight musicians to blow off steam by playing with friends. That led to regular Monday night gigs that started at Nashville’s bluegrass club, the Station Inn, and since has moved to a larger club called 3rd and Lindley.

Gill played a substitute role for other guitar players until 2010 when he became an official Time Jumper.

“Everybody in the band I’ve known forever, as all us musicians do know each other,” Gill said in a telephone call from Nashville before the band heads out for a weekend of shows. “For several years, when either Andy (Reiss) or Ranger Doug couldn’t make it on a Monday night they would call me. I’d just play guitar. It was so much fun for me because I love Western swing music. Growing up in Oklahoma, it was part of my DNA, so to speak.

“It was always a treat for me to just go down and be a guitar player for a night and maybe sing a tune or two. It’s fun. We’ve got an 11-piece band. Seven people sing. We swap it around and watch each other shine. It’s a killer band, man. Great musicianship.

For anyone who likes Western swing, this is the band for them. They’re gonna have a ball. It’s probably 75 percent Western swing, then we do a handful of old traditional country songs.”

Unfortunately, only 10 of the Time Jumpers will be in attendance for the weekend tour. Vocalist Dawn Sears, who also sings in Gill’s touring band and is married to Time Jumper fiddler Kenny Sears, was diagnosed with lung cancer in March.

“She’s in the throes of it,” Gill said. “It’s probably the ugliest stretch she’s going to go through – radiation five times a day and chemo every couple of weeks. She’s got a couple more weeks of radiation. It’s really kicking her pretty hard. She has not made the last two or three Monday nights and she won’t be with us this weekend. We were kind of on the fence whether we even wanted to go out and do gigs without her. She wants us to press on. She’ll be back when she gets healed up. We’re a group of positive thinkers and we’ll help any way we can. She’s fighting hard.”

Traditional country fans can also look forward to the July 30 release of Bakersfield, a duet record of Gill and Time Jumper steel player Paul Franklin playing the music of Buck Owens and Merle Haggard.

“It really was a fun project,” Gill said. “Paul and I have been friends for 35 years. Paul played on ‘When I Call Your Name,’ my first big hit. He was a big part of that record with his steel solo. We have a lot of history together and this just seemed like a fun idea. I’ve sung with everybody in the world, it seems like. I wanted to do a duet record and I thought, why not do a duet record with a musician instead of a singer? I chose to sing, too, but it really features the steel guitar and the Telecaster, with half Buck Owens songs and half Merle Haggard. It was so much fun!

While there will be plenty of stringed interplay between the two, Gill is also a student of vocal styles, so makes his rich tenor emulate the stylings of Buck and Merle.

“I still sound like I sound, but Buck had a really straight, piercing kind of sound. He didn’t have vibrato, per se, the way he’d slide into a note,” Gill said. “And the way Merle would go to one of those notes and bend it down low. He was a prettier singer than Buck. Buck was more of a straight-ahead honky-tonk singer. And Merle was a sweeter singer. But this is anything but a sound-alike record. It’s our interpretation of what we learned from them. I know people are starved for this kind of music. It’s nothing like the Time Jumpers do, but it’s every bit as authentic as what the Time Jumpers do.”

Asked if he feels a need to uphold tradition at a time when country sounds indistinguishable from pop, he says, “If you think about it, that’s what was happening before Buck and Merle showed up. Everything was smooth and cosmopolitan. There were a lot of big ballad singers. Then they came along and made it a little more rowdy. This is nothing new,” he laughs. “Trust me.”

And, he says, no, it is not his responsibility to uphold country traditions.

“I want to do it all,” he said. “People are going to hear this traditional record and think I’m a traditionalist. I’m a pop singer, too. I’ve had pop hits. I’ve done my share of contemporary records in my own career. Mine is not a history of just traditional music. I like it all. I learned as much from Led Zeppelin as I did from Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs, and everything in between. My next record, I don’t know what it’s going to be. It could be anything.”

Tickets for the 8 pm concert range from $45 to $68. For tickets, call 920.868.2728, visit dcauditorium.org, or stop by the DCA box office. The box office is located at 3926 Highway 42 in Fish Creek and is open 12 – 5 pm, Monday through Friday.

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