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Hot Club of Cowtown

Swingin' Stampede – 1998 (HighTone)

Reviewed by Rachel Leibrock

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CDs by Hot Club of Cowtown

Placing original instrumentation against a framework of swing standards, Austin's Hot Club of Cowtown emerges with one of this year's freshest sounds. Fourteen tracks strong, this samples a diversity of swing genres including western, hot jazz and traditional.

Covering songs penned by the likes of Bob Wills, George Gershwin and Spade Cooley, guitarist Whit Smith, bassist Billy Horton and fiddler Elana Fremerman infuse tradition with a modern acumen. From "Snowflake Reel" and "I Had Someone Else" to "You Can't Break My Heart," the numbers here are sassy albeit sometimes tinged with a melancholy sting.

Featuring guest licks by fiddler Johnny Gimble (from Bob Wills' Texas Playboys band), steel guitarist Jeremy Wakefield (the Lucky Stars) and accordionist Mike Maddux (who wrote the album's one original track, "T and J Waltz"). This is a fast-paced, engaging record; there's never a lull or uninspired moment. The true standout in this rousing collection, however, is Fremerman's expert, feverish fiddle playing. Whether inciting a heated jig on tracks such as "Mission to Moscow" or weaving a sad sentimentality on "Just Friends," Fremerman's playing is the true heart of the band. Howard Kalish