Eric Gloaguen is a talented multi-instrumentalist who pays warm tribute to his western swing and bluegrass influences on Texas Rag. That Gloaguen hails from France makes the recording all the more interesting because we get to hear those influences from a fresh cultural viewpoint.
Texas Rag features Gloaguen playing banjo on all cuts and I guess this makes this a banjo recording, although the music is more Texas swing than to bluegrass. He also plays guitar (both acoustic and electric) and ably handles the bass chores. Eight songs are multi-tracked, with Gloaguen playing all of the instruments. The song selection features at least four cuts associated with the Kentucky Colonels, which probably too many for a single recording because of the comparisons it forces the listener to make. Gloaguen also contributes several originals to the collection, and they show that he's completely at home in the style. The original Holiday Breakfast, which features his electric guitar playing, is low-key and nicely understated.
True to the title, the playing here is strongly Texas-influenced. Gloaguen's banjo playing is heavily drawn from Alan Munde - fluid and melodic - and from the traditional Texas fiddle styles. My only serious complaint is that his arrangements stick stops and pauses in virtually every song. Maybe that's what he hears as a primary element of the style, but it's distracting and overdone.
Gloaguen is helped out by several good musicians musicians. There's some especially nice fiddle playing by Olivier Christienne on Cotton Patch Rag. The vocals by J. J. Despouys are nicely done and, frankly, I prefer hearing his genuine French accent rather than the put-on American Southern one we often hear on foreign recordings. There's a charming clash of cultures in hearing the line "And kill a fifth of Thunderbird" sung with a French accent in Tell Me Baby Now Why.
If you like your banjo with a strong does of western swing, Texas Rag is for you.