Hot Club of Cowtown – music for pure lovers

I crawled out of the Louisiana swamp brushing aside the detritus of decades that swirled around my head, hauled myself up through the cotton plants and rinsed away the crawfish and crab, lifted my neck and stared at the spartan stage at Lowdham Civic Hall. Surprisingly, there was no swinging orchestra, no line dancers, no night club jazz players – just three remarkable artists on guitar, violin and a big old double bass. Hot Club Of Cowtown were in the Nottinghamshire village.
Many have tried to describe their music. I’d suggest Creole Country with a heavy influence of Django Reinhardt and Stephane Grappelli jazz, tender, precise ballads, and overriding Country & Western. But it’s so much more than that.
Elana Jones is centre stage with flashing eyes and a perfect, embracing smile, framed by blonde hair that wanted to have a fresh life of its own. She is a truly accomplished songwriter and singer with a cheeky vocal delivery. Jones is the de facto group leader and lead singer, but it is her violin that takes centre stage. Soaring through the country style, she evokes images of 19th century America better than a painting. One self-penned number displayed her talent for making the violin ‘talk’. We heard the neighing of wild horses, the clatter of their hooves and the bass and guitar joined in as the animals galloped freely across the Mongolian desert.
Whit Smith is simply stunning. Any guitarist will attest to the sometimes impossible width of the instrument’s neck; Smith must be an alien. His span would cross the River Trent in flood; his precision and accuracy made me gasp in admiration; he didn’t play that guitar, it actually became part of him. The intricate note-picking of the country-style numbers gave way to melody, and a particularly evocative ‘The Continental’ that took us back to the 1930s and days of Noel Coward.
His digits envelope immaculate country and western style Django Reinhardt jazz. He could be a grown-up Harry Potter with a carefully tuned guitar instead of a magic wand. His songwriting skills display a breadth of musical genres that fascinated and enthralled a packed audience.
Jake Erwin exemplifies what the group have evolved into over the last 22 years. He makes the double bass a fulcrum of power and rhythm. That big old slapper is much loved. Erwin’s hands moved effortless over a neck that’s filled out with age; and, woomph, down swoops his right hand and smacks her nether regions. She growls and moans in ecstasy as the strings of her heart are plucked, and his fingers deftly caress. She responds with a power that far surpasses the tenderness with which she’s been plucked and stroked.
Finally a finale, but first a violin string broke. This was no disaster; it was a heaven-sent message that these three musicians were actually human, even if they did have superhuman powers. The last number was the ultimate ‘conversation’ between violin, guitar and bass. This was music in a storm. Music flowed through a wide, pulsing pipe and burst out with ground-shaking power. The torrent took shape as it poured out and carried everything before it: fast, light streams were formed; frothing rapids were crossed; and the culmination was a release, and calm.
Who would I recommend Hot Club Of Cowtown to? Anyone who wants that odd feeling when you hear and see music played so brilliantly that it stops you breathing, but you keep smiling.

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