Santa Cruz Good Times

Monday
Nov 24th
Text size
  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size

Don’t Mess With Texas

blog_noise_HotClubOfCowtownHot Club of Cowtown sidesteps tumbleweeds, stomps out labels
Nothing irks Elana James more than to hear her trio described as being a part of some retro movement.

“We get pigeonholed as these western swing revivalists, which we absolutely can’t fucking stand,” James says over the phone from her Austin, Texas home. “This notion that we are living in a sepia-tone, alternative universe is complete bullshit.”
James, the sharp-tongued, fiddler and singer for Hot Club of Cowtown says that her music is just as modern as anything on Top 40 radio today. “It just so happens that this is what inspired this band.”

By “this,” James means western swing and hot jazz, two genres pioneered by artists like Bob Wills and Stephane Grappelli, respectively. The way she sees it, just because the music harkens back to a specific time and place—in the case of the aforementioned musical styles, the 1930s and 1940s—doesn’t mean that it can’t be thoroughly rooted in the present.
“Everyone draws on things that came before them,” James says.

And on Hot Club’s latest record, What Makes Bob Holler, the group is drawing on the music of Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys—a seminal western swing outfit. The album is all Wills covers, ranging from the slow waltz of “A Maiden’s Prayer” to the fast-swinging “She’s Killing Me.”
The record showcases the talents of each band member. The group’s rhythm section, which consists of Jake Erwin on stand up bass and Whit Smith on guitar, is strong—propulsive and clicking away at a good clip on the upbeat numbers, and subdued but steady on the slower tunes. James’ voice can be sweet, mournful or sassy, depending on what the lyrics demand; and she proves to be quite the virtuosic fiddler, capable of delivering precise, frenetic runs just as well as expressive lamenting melodies.

The album was recorded in a series of single takes, a method the band settled upon in part out of sheer practicality.
“First of all, we had almost no time,” James says, explaining that the group’s label, Proper Records, only booked them three days worth of studio time, so there wasn’t much time to “screw around and order pizza.”

But there was another reason the group decided to ditch the overdubs.
“These songs shouldn’t be over fussed,” James says. “They shouldn’t be shellacked. The idea is that they are spontaneous, they are imperfect.”

What Makes Bob Holler was inspired both by the group’s appreciation of Wills as well as their audiences’ love for the music of His Texas Playboys.
“It has beautiful melodies and it is highly danceable,” James says of Wills’ compositions, noting that his tunes always get the crowd moving.

That doesn’t mean those who turn out for Hot Club of Cowtown’s show, May 4 at Don Quixote’s, will only hear Wills tunes. James says the band will play plenty of originals along with other standards from their repertoire of western swing and hot jazz numbers. With over a decade’s worth of performing and eight U.S. releases to their name, the Hot Club will certainly not be at a loss for material.
Although she sometimes resents the notion that her band is some sort of derivative, old timey throwback, she ultimately hopes that her audiences will be transported to a place not unlike the windswept West Texas desert where Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys made a name for themselves more than half a century ago.

“Cowtown is a state of mind,” she says. “It’s the cowtown of the imagination.”

 


Hot Club of Cowtown plays at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, May 4, at Don Quixote’s, 6275 Hwy 9, Felton. Tickets are $15. For more information, call 603-2294.

 

Comments (0)Add Comment

Write comment
smaller | bigger

busy
 

Share this on your social networks

Bookmark and Share

Share this

Bookmark and Share

 

Pop Life

The pop-up dining trend is freeing culinary imaginations and creating a guerilla version of event dining around Santa Cruz

 

Over Hills and Plains, Riding a White Horse, Bow and Arrows in Hand

Saturday, early morning, the sun enters and radiates the light of Sagittarius. Three hours later, the Sagittarius new moon (0.07 degrees) occurs. “Let food be sought,” is the personality-building keynote. “Food” means experiences; all kinds, levels and types. It also means real food. Sag’s secret is their love of food. Many, if not musicians, are chefs. Some are both. The energies shift from Scorpio’s deep and transformative waters to the “hills and plains of Sagittarius.” Sag is the rider on a white horse, eyes focused on the mountain peaks of Capricorn (Initiation) ahead. Like Scorpio, Sagittarius is also the “disciple.” Adventure, luck, optimism, joy and the beginnings of gratitude are the hallmarks of Sagittarius. Sag is also one of the signs of silence. The battle lines were drawn in Libra and we were asked to choose where we stood. The Nine Tests were given in Scorpio and we emerged “warriors triumphant.” Now in Sag, we are to be the One-Pointed Disciple, riding over the plains on a white horse, bow and arrows in hand, eyes focused on the Path of Return ahead. Sagittarians are one-pointed (symbol of the arrow). Sag asks, “What is my life’s purpose?” This is their quest, from valleys, plains, meadows and hills, eyes aimed always at the mountaintop. Sag emerges from Scorpio’s deep waters, conflict and tests into the open air. Sag’s quest is humanity’s quest. Sag’s quest, however, is always accompanied by music and good food.

 

The New Tech Nexus

Community leaders in science and technology unite to form web-based networking program

 

Film, Times & Events: Week of November 21

Santa Cruz area movie theaters >
Sign up for Good Times weekly newsletter
Get the latest news, events

RSS Feed Burner

 Subscribe in a reader

Latest Comments

 

Pie Fidelity

A little Thanksgiving help, plus sip and shop locally at the Art, Wine and Gift Bazaar

 

What should be on everyone’s bucket list?

Hang gliding, because you're free as a bird. Jenni, Santa Cruz, Student/Administrative Assistant

 

Soquel Vineyards

Thanksgiving is just around the corner, so it’s time to be thinking about the wine you’re going to serve with that special dinner, be it turkey, ham, a roast, or something vegetarian or vegan.

 

The Kitchen

Chef Santos Majano talks beer-friendly food at Discretion Brewery