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Continental Stomp

The Hot Club of Cowtown

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Album Review

As its name implies, Austin, TX-based retro trio Hot Club of Cowtown attempts to be a cross between Django Reinhardt's Quintet of the Hot Club of France and Bob Wills' Texas Playboys, playing stripped-down Western swing in an acoustic jazz style using just violin, guitar, and bass. On record, the band's repertoire has reflected its hybrid taste, though 2002's Ghost Train contained a complement of originals by principals Elana Fremerman (violin) and Whit Smith (guitar). (The bass-playing third member has changed during the trio's history; here it is Jake Erwin.) The band's approach is one that practically begs for a live recording, and on this one, captured at the Continental Club in Austin on May 10-12, 2003, the Hot Club of Cowtown demonstrates that it is not running out of ideas for old songs; of the 14 selections, all of them covers, only three have been on the group's previous albums. It's no surprise that they cast back to the first half of the 20th century for their material, particularly the 1920s, and particularly tunes from the pen of Jimmy McHugh, who is tapped, along with lyricist partner Dorothy Fields, for the opening instrumental, "Diga Diga Doo," "I Can't Give You Anything But Love, Baby," and "Exactly Like You." Those are nominally show tunes, but the trio hears them as early jazz and as platforms for fast improvising. The same holds true for country standards like "Ida Red" and "Orange Blossom Special." The group also can do justice to a ballad, however, as proven by a reading of "Pennies from Heaven." Winning as a live album is from a group that clearly makes its mark in concert, however, Continental Stomp also suggests that Hot Club of Cowtown may have shot its bolt in terms of recordings, unless it can develop its songwriting further. In that sense, the album is a holding action, but it is also the one fans may want to own as a souvenir of an enjoyable show.

Biography

Genre: Country

Years Active: '90s, '00s, '10s

Western swing revivalists Hot Club of Cowtown formed in San Diego, CA in 1996; originally a duo pairing singer/violinist Elana Fremerman and singer/guitarist Whit Smith, a subsequent move to Austin, TX made room for the addition of bassist Billy Horton. Signing to Hightone, the trio issued its debut album, Swingin' Stampede!, in the fall of 1998; the follow-up, Tall Tales, appeared a year later. New bassist Matt Weiner joined Smith and Fremerman for 2000's Dev'lish Mary. Ghost Train came two years...
Full Bio
Continental Stomp, The Hot Club of Cowtown
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  • $9.99
  • Genres: Country, Music, Rock
  • Released: Oct 28, 2003

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