Don’t let the name fool you. Hot Club of Cowtown may sound like a boot-scootin’ boogie through a dusty old bar with a wooden floor.
The opening strains of “Can’t go on This Way” sound a little like “Oh! Susanna,” which is a fun blast to the past before the vocals kick it down a different path.
The whole collection walks a winding road under the skilled feats of violin and vocals from Elana James, guitar and vocals from Whit Smith and bass and background vocals from Jake Erwin. They make up the group’s core, with percussion added by Damien Llanes.
The mood changes entirely with “Reunion,” building on an eerie minor key and James’ breathy vocals, which sound like she’s letting you in on a cool secret.
Her fiddle blazes through every melody it touches, but really cranks up the heat on “The Magic Violin.” She’s a musical force to be reckoned with — no wonder Bob Dylan put her in his touring band.
Her magic violin steps aside to let guitar and percussion step into the spotlight, letting you know everyone in this band can hold their own just fine. (The trio formed in New York City’s East Village in the mid-90s, but now lists Austin, Texas, on its MySpace page and was inducted into the Texas Western Swing Hall of Fame in 2006.)
The CD makes another departure with “One Step Closer,” embracing an easy pop swing and come-hither vocals by James. Speaking of James, the whole song sounds like it could be a 007 theme song. Shaken, not stirred.
“Columbus Stockade Blues” swings its partners right back to their Western roots before ending with a gorgeous, languid reading of the Gershwin standard, “Someone to Watch Over Me,” blending the best of both worlds.
With such an eclectic collection, this band should offer up a little something for everyone in today’s concert at CSPS.
– DIANA NOLLEN, THE GAZETTE
Title: “Wishful Thinking”
Artist: Hot Club of Cowtown
Label: Proper Records Ltd.
Performance: 8 p.m. Today, Oct. 22
Where: CSPS, 1103 Third St. SE, Cedar Rapids
Tickets: $15 advance at www.iowatix.com or $18 at the door
Information: www.legionarts.org and