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Music Review: Hot Club Of Cowtown – What Makes Bob Holler

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Hot Club Of Cowtown was formed during 1998, and except for a hiatus from 2005-2008, have been producing some of the best western swing music of the last 15 years. What Makes Bob Holler is their eleventh album, although two were non-USA issues. It will be officially released in The United States February 1st.

Fiddle player/vocalist Elana James (formerly Fremmerman) and vocalist/guitarist Whit Smith were the founding members. Bass player/background vocalist Jake Erwin joined in the year 2000, solidifying the lineup. The sound the three voices and instruments produce is extraordinary.

Hot Club Of Cowtown is a western swing band with a little jazz thrown in for good measure. The guitar sound reminds me of Django Reinhardt. Western swing evolved in the late 1920’s and was a popular music form throughout the 1930’s and 1940’s. It was basically dance music that was many times up-tempo in nature. Many of the groups of the day were similar in make-up to the classic big bands. The difference was the fiddle was used as the lead instrument and there was a lot more improvisation. It would prove influential in the development of rock ‘n’ roll. Bill Haley was a western swing artist who would move it all over to a rock sound.

The king of the western swing movement was Bob Wills, (1905-1975), and his Texas Playboys. At the height of their popularity they would draw in excess of 10,000 people to their dances and concerts. Wills would have 18 top five country hits during the 1940’s with six reaching the number one position.

The legacy of Bob Wills and the career of Hot Club Of Cowtown now intersect with their new album. What Makes Bob Holler is a tribute album that pays homage to the old king of western swing.

They wisely combine well known and obscure tunes into a nice mix. “Big Ball In Cowtown,” “Osage Stomp,” “Faded Love,” “Stay A Little Longer,” and “What’s The Matter With The Mill” are all given modern and energetic interpretations.

What Makes Bob Holler proves that Hot Club Of Cowtown are the leading practitioners of western swing music working and recording today. Their new album would have made Bob Wills proud.

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