Saturday, August 29, 2009

Cow on a Hot Tin Roof

Swing has always had a special place in my musical line up.  It doesn't seem to matter how old, how new or how many instruments are involved, you can't beat the beat that gives a treat.  
The Hot Club of France gains credit for popularizing the swinging gypsy sound in the 30's throughout the cafes and cabarets of Paris.  Led by Django Rheinhardt and Stephane Grappelli, it's a style with prominent stand-up bass, wild fiddle and a bouncing, plucky guitar.  It's a hoedown looking for a barn full of people.  And it doesn't matter what language the songs are sung in, it still doesn't mean a thing unless it's got that swing.  Take for example, on the Putumayo Label, Swing Around the World.  Roughly 10 different countries take a crack at the classic sound.  It's a great CD for cooking and sitting around drinking.  I think everyone in my family has a copy.
Within the last few years, I realized there are several talented bands who directly borrowed their names from the original Hot Club, and they jam with all the enthusiasm and spirit as their predecessors.  The Hot Club of San Francisco has a more minimal sound, while Hot Club Sandwich (love that name!) has a rowdier approach.   The Hot Club of Detroit has a tinge of klezmer, with prominent accordion and clarinet, but the ever present holy trinity of bass, fiddle and guitar are still there.

The Hot Club of Cowtown is a band I just discovered, but they are by no means a new band.  This trio has just released a new album, Wishful Thinking, and is keeping the spirit of hot jazz and western swing alive.  This excerpt from their website gives you a bit more insight:

Lauded on NPR, darlings of international stages from Japan's Fuji Rock Festival to Stagecoach and all points in between, HCCT began as a combustible trio playing traditional music but began to develop its own sound through invitations to collaborate, tour with, and work alongside more contemporary artists.  The trio was hired (and survived) tours with Bob Dylan and Willie Nelson, first opening for them then playing with them: Elana, a classically trained violinist and the legitimate heir to the great tradition of Western swing which she learned firsthand horse wrangling and working with Texas fiddle masters (and a few stolen encounters with traveling Romany fiddlers), became the first dedicated female instrumentalist to tour in Bob Dylan's band in over 30 years.

An invitation from Bryan Ferry for HCCT to reinterpret his material coaxed the band into the modern mainstream. Rachel Ray put them in her cookbook!  Their appearances at mega-festivals from Byron Bay (Australia) to Fuji Rock (Japan) to Glastonbury (UK), and performances on Jools Holland's TV show, "Later," have brought the band international acclaim and a little closer to the millions waiting to fall in love with their music.  HCCT has taken a traditional idiom, dusted it off, transfigured it, and reinterpreted it on its own terms. The music is blazing, modern, and has more energy than ever."
Couldn't have said it better (and didn't want to).  My favorite tracks include The Long Way Home, which Norah Jones did recently and Elana James' breathy, almost Jessica Rabbit rendition of Someone to Watch Over Me.  
Get it, share it and support the band and other musicians like them.

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