Santa Cruz Good Times

Tuesday
Sep 16th
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

 

Watch List

From Google to the government to data brokers, why your privacy is now a thing of the past

 

A Different Revolution

Aries Moon late Wednesday and Thursday. We think new thoughts and initiate new ideas. Sun in Virgo with Saturn in Scorpio help disciples to create orderly structures to anchor and bring forth new ideas. Stabilizing Taurus moon Friday and Saturday. We anchor new ideas into form and matter, like seeds planted in the soil. We tend them, waiting for green shoots to emerge. Like the gestating Virgo Sun Madonna, awaiting the birth of the holy child, the Soul, the new light at winter solstice. Mercury and Chiron converse about what hurts and what heals.Saturday is a complex day with Mercury (communication), Mars (action!) and Uranus (revolution). Mercury in Libra is opposite Uranus in Aries. Oppositions (recognizing something new appearing over there somewhere) eventually synthesize. Mercury in Libra calls for Right Action and Right Relations, especially with money. Uranus in Aries—the revolution this time must be different.  Also on Saturday, Mars enters Sagittarius. Where are we going, what are our goals, where’s justice, where’s the mountain, do we have good shoes? Sunday Venus trines Pluto—in-depth assessment of money, values and resources. Gemini moon Monday; we talk a lot, tending to tasks in gardens and neighborhoods. Cancer Moon Tuesday and Wednesday; we nurture and nourish. The stars and planets remind us.Note: William Meader, esoteric author & international teacher, will be speaking on “The Soul of Humanity Evolving Through Crisis” at Meditation Mount, 7pm, Friday, Sept. 12.

 

Final Cut

Cedar Street Video to close after 10 years at downtown location

 

Film, Times & Events: Week of September 12

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

 

Wood Fire Woodie

Scotts Valley pizzeria gets fired up the old-school way

 

What's your all-time best Skyview Flea Market score?

Santa Cruz | eBay Business

 

Best of Santa Cruz County

The 2013 Santa Cruz County Readers' Poll and Critics’ Picks It’s our biggest issue of the year, and in it, your votes—more than 6,500 of them—determined the winners of The Best of Santa Cruz County Readers’ Poll. New to the long list of local restaurants, shops and other notables that captured your interest: Best Beer Selection, Best Locally Owned Business, Best Customer Service and Best Marijuana Dispensary. In the meantime, many readers were ever so chatty online about potential new categories. Some of the suggestions that stood out: Best Teen Program and Best Web Design/Designer. But what about: Dog Park, Church, Hotel, Local Farm, Therapist (I second that!) or Sports Bar—not to be confused with Bra. Our favorite suggestion: Best Act of Kindness—one reader noted Café Gratitude and the free meals it offered to the Santa Cruz Police Department in the aftermath of recent crimes. Perhaps some of these can be woven into next year’s ballot, so stay tuned. In the meantime, enjoy the following pages and take note of our Critics’ Picks, too, beginning on page 91. A big thanks for voting—and for reading—and an even bigger congratulations to all of the winners. Enjoy.  -Greg Archer, EditorBest of Santa Cruz County Readers’ Poll INDEX

 

Soquel’s Pinot Winner

When you taste Soquel Vineyards’ extraordinary 2012 Partners’ Reserve Pinot Noir, you will know why it won a Double Gold in June at the 2014 San Francisco International Wine Competition.