One of Bianchetta's, "The Only Thing," she wrote while studying music at the University of Missouri. She has recorded the song before, but it's hard to imagine a more gorgeous version, with Breidenbach and Buckley soloing to match every aching phrase from that smoky, supple, boundless voice.

"There was a time when I had a following in jazz," Bianchetta explains, "but then in Hot Club Canary I did folk music, and I lost all of them. I wasn't a purist anymore. I would sing country, and they would say, 'You can't sing that. You're not country.' Or the blues. 'What do you have to cry about?' I really got nailed early on in the jazz world."

The new album features Latin-inflected instrumentals, velvety love songs, spryly swinging jazz, a classic duet between Buckley and Bianchetta on the eternal chestnut "Wild Mountain Thyme," a flute-and-drum march "In the Pale of the Day" and showcases for each player that never cross the line into showboating. When Breidenbach's Dobro, Buckley's fiddle, Bianchetta's flute, Hall's guitar and Corkery's bass move around the Hall-penned instrumental "920 State Street (The Herb Song)," the quintet sounds like it's scoring the soundtrack to a Wim Winders movie about the past and present of St. Louis music.

Boss Hall performs every Sunday at the Shanti and once a month at BB's Jazz, Blues and Soups.
Boss Hall performs every Sunday at the Shanti and once a month at BB's Jazz, Blues and Soups.

For Buckley, the band's youngest member, playing and recording with Boss Hall channels his love of traditional music while giving him opportunities no other local ensemble affords.

"I admire and love the way everybody plays," he says. "It's a good outlet for my fiddle playing. I love Irish music, and that's where my heart is. But I first started out listening to the band, and I still get to listen and play along, so it's win-win."

And what does Hall make of this band where he is, for better or worse, the boss?

"It's a challenge to play this music," he says. "And nobody uses a flat pick."

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