Among WC’s very favorite live bands would be Hot Club of Cowtown.
WC saw them live for the first time as a part of Mountain Stage’s first show in Fairbanks back in 2012. They blew the crowd away. At the time, WC called them “the offspring of Django Reinhard and The Texas Playboys.” They were such a hit as a part of Mountain Stage that Fairbanks Concert Association brought them back to Fairbanks in 2013, where they gave Fairbanksans a spectacular show. WC and Mrs. WC made sure to have front row seats for the trio’s first Boise show, ever.
Hot Club of Cowtown is Whit Smith on guitar and vocals, Elana James on fiddle and vocals, and Jake Erwin on slap bass and background vocals, and, in the words of Rick Moore, “The three are as instrumentally and vocally tight as any band out there working in any genre today.” This is the 20th year of Hot Club, and they are at once both true to their roots in country swing and unafraid to experiment. In addition to some Django Reinhardt and a couple of Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys tunes, we were treated to a brilliant interpretation of Tom Waits’ “Long Way Home” and a straight-ahead cover of “Pennies from Heaven.” While the band has roots in Hot Club of Paris and The Texas Playboys, they have built their own sound and their own approach to music. Half the songs they did Monday night were songs they had written. Many of those new songs are influenced by those roots, but by no means all.
As WC has said before, this is a band that is better live than on its CDs. These are three spectacular musicians. Jake Erwin is the best slap bass player on the planet. Several times he did slap triplets while carrying the bass line on the song. Elena James’ spectacular “Orange Blossom Special” nearly set her fiddle on fire. And Whit Smith’s guitar work can match James’ fiddle note for note. But what makes Hot Club so special for WC is the obvious pleasure that these three musicians take in performing together. And where but a live show would you get to see Eva walk across stage to the strains of “Eva’s Waltz”?
This band is a poster child for everything that is terrific about live music: great tunes, great musicians and an easy camaraderie that adds to the pleasure. See them live if you can.