Hot Club of Cowtown Wild Kingdom The Last Music Co.
Celebrating an incredible 25th year in existence (in this line up), Hot Club of Cowtown have just re-released their 11th album, to coincide with a resumption of touring. From the spectacular technicolour of the cover photo, depicting the trio surrounded by exotic and domestic animals and plants, it’s clear that they have lost none of their enthusiasm for making music. Comprising mainly original songs, this record was way overdue, especially since their last few albums have been homages to some of their influences – Bob Wills, Stephane Grappelli, Bob Hope etc. Elana James is the de facto band leader, known for her virtuoso violin playing, rich vocals and sunny disposition. She met Whit Smith (guitars and vocals) in NYC 28 years ago and they hit it off musically. Upright bassist Jake Erwin joined them in 2003, after they had relocated to Austin.

Steeped in Western Swing, gipsy jazz and country music, their unique sound, virtuoso playing and spectacular live shows are now legendary, and this record continues that legacy.

James contributes seven new songs, ranging from the whimsy of My Candy to the romantic Tall Tall Ship and High Up On The Mountain. On Before The Time of Men she imagines the beauty of the world from the viewpoint of a ‘beautiful white stallion’ ruling the high plateau, ‘spirit of the mountains, the prairie and the steppe’, no doubt a metaphor for how the world would have been before recent environmental destruction. She is at her wittiest best, though, in the hilarious Near Mrs., a list song of twenty five near misses with would be suitors (including ‘the guy from INXS’!).

Whit Smith takes the lead vocals on his four original compositions, continuing the retro feel of the band sound with his vintage guitar and jazz stylings. On Billy The Kid he vividly captures the moment when that fugitive is shot down by Pat Garrett, and the life reminiscences that could have flashed before him as he died. Rodeo Blues allows James another opportunity to indulge her love of horses in the tongue-in-cheek tale of how she fell in love with the rodeo ‘pick up man’ when she was thrown off.

The three cover songs include a simply perfect version of the classic How High The Moon.

Co-produced by Lloyd Maines and the band themselves, this collection should whet your appetite until you can catch them live again.

Review by Eilís Boland

Click the link below to read the review on the Lonesome Highway website: