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Various Artists

Four Dead Batteries soundtrack – 2005 (HighTone)

Reviewed by Ken Burke

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This 15-song set by Hot Club of Cowtown and Whit Smith's Hot Jazz Caravan for this straight-to-video movie provides spirited two-steps and cheek-to-cheek dancing galore. Although the band's respective approaches - Smith started the Caravan after Hot Club folded - are basically the same, they deliver different shades of swing and jazz.

Most of Hot Club's tunes were previously released by HighTone. Yet, such jumpin' hillbilly ditties as "Little Liza Jane," "Cherokee Shuffle" and "Ida Red" have held up especially well. The group's Bob Wills-meets-'30's-jazz approach remains especially appealing on the Joe Venuti-Eddie Lang inspired "Emily" and "Fuli Tschai" along with "Forget Me Nots," which features a fine double-tracked vocal from violin virtuoso Elana Fremerman. Stylistically, Smith's Caravan incorporates clarinet and saxophone to forge the type of small combo swing usually associated with Woody Allen soundtracks. Employing his best Midwestern-bandleader vocals, Smith emphasizes romance with the Venuti-edged "I'm Putting All My Eggs in One Basket" and Django Reinhart influenced "Douce Ambience." Covers of "Birth of the Blues" and "I'm an Old Cowhand" are a bit corny, and violinist Mike Montgomery lacks Fremerman's pure tone.

However, both groups effortlessly conjure dance hall atmosphere and Depression-era optimism in highly entertaining fashion.