The Best Westerns meld instrumental virtuosity and the powerful charm of classic songs old and new, from way out West to Tin Pan Alley. Some call it swing, some call it jazz, some might think it’s rockabilly, and some even call it western music. And that’s how you know it’s Western Swing.
The six-piece ensemble features fiddle, piano, guitar, steel guitar, acoustic bass, and drums.
The repertoire ranges from Bob Wills to Benny Goodman, with stops along the way for Slim Gaillard, Speedy West, Count Basie, and Carl Smith . . . or Carl Perkins . . . or Ray Price. Incorporating influences too numerous to name, the band’s creative synergy leads to a growing core of original compositions.
Most of all, it’s dance music. The band runs on rhythm. Once people are dancing, the Best Westerns are in business.
About the Band
Mark Hembree recorded and toured with Bill Monroe (“Father of Bluegrass Music”), the Nashville Bluegrass Band (“O Brother Where Art Thou?”), the Dreadful Snakes (produced by Béla Fleck and Jerry Douglas) and Monroe Doctrine. He also can be heard in recordings with Peter Rowan, David Grisman, Tony Trischka, Roy Bookbinder, Randy Travis, and Neil Young (among many others). Recent years have brought commemorative appearances at events reuniting Bill Monroe bandmates, such as MerleFest and Garrison Keillor’s “A Prairie Home Companion” (along with ex-Blue Grass Boys Del McCoury, Peter Rowan, Roland White, Bobby Hicks, Blake Williams, Bob Black, and Tom Ewing). Grammy-nominated albums include the Nashville Bluegrass Band’s “To Be His Child” and Peter Rowan’s “Blue Moon Rising,” not to mention a recording credit on Randy Travis’ platinum-selling “Storms of Life.”
Since returning to Wisconsin, Hembree has played bluegrass with the Rounders and the Nob Hill Boys, rockabilly with the Liam Ford Band, and western swing with the Western Box Turtles and, now, the Best Westerns.
Steel guitarist Eddie Rivers is widely acknowledged as the the world’s best on his instrument. Over more than a decade with the Western swing supergroup Asleep at the Wheel, he recorded and performed with many well-known stars of country music including Willie Nelson, Ray Price, Merle Haggard, and many others. Eddie’s solo album, “Plain Talkin’ Man,” earned 5-star ratings across the board on Amazon.
Drummer Andy Pagel has powered several Wisconsin Area Music Industry (WAMI) award-winning bands, including Liam Ford and, with Hembree, the Western Box Turtles. Pagel’s resumé stretches from punk in New York City to Milwaukee’s Johnny on Washday and the Who tribute band Substitute. He recently played drums on Asleep at the Wheel steel guitar alum Eddie Rivers’ album “Plain Talkin’ Man.”
The rock-solid beat is further charged by veteran guitarist Tim “Beezer” Ferguson, long-known to Wisconsin fans since bands such as Radio Flyer and Ida Red, which also included Eddie Rivers.
On fiddle and vocals, Mark Roeder is a multi-instrumentalist swing man with several bands and has been performing all over the Midwest for decades.
Pianist Anna Brinck is the brains of the outfit, with degrees in music, physics, and electrical engineering – that is, when she’s not with the Best Westerns knocking the ivory off the keys with her percussive rhythm and incendiary solos