Hot Club of Cowtown | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Hot Club of Cowtown


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Since 1996 this Austin trio has been staking out a middle ground between Django Reinhardt's Gypsy jazz and Bob Wills's western swing. They usually emphasize the latter, in part because guitarist Whit Smith is no Reinhardt--though he effectively evokes the master's characteristic dusky mood, he can't hope to match him rhythmically. But the more important reason by far is that they can have so much more fun with Wills: fiddler Elana Fremerman adores the caddish glee he brought to the instrument, and the band shares his love for playful reinterpretations of the Great American Songbook. Over the course of four studio albums the threesome (rounded out by bassist Jake Erwin) have grown from stilted scholars into creative revivalists, but their one live album, last year's Continental Stomp (Hightone), is the best place to get to know them: recorded (except for one track) in front of an enthusiastic hometown crowd at Austin's Continental Club, it's easily their woolliest disc, and its freewheeling takes on "After You've Gone" and "Orange Blossom Special" are fine showcases for the band's incendiary chops (particularly Fremerman's). All the songs are covers, but the band has chosen them with the same good taste it employs in writing its own tunes. Buried as a hidden track is "Pussy, Pussy, Pussy," a blue tune by Wills contemporary Marvin "Smokey" Montgomery; the lyrics are so single-minded they barely qualify as double entendres. Thursday, May 20, 8:30 PM, FitzGerald's, 6615 Roosevelt, Berwyn; 708-788-2118.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Senor McGuire.

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