Step into the Wayback Machine for a history lesson: Once upon a time there was a genre known as Western Swing it was an all-American mutant music, an amalgam of the "Western" part of Country & Western and jazz of the hot (1920s) and Swing (‘30s) eras, with dollops of pop, blues, and Tex-Mex border sounds mixed in. Its most popular exponent was Bob Wills & the Texas Playboys imagine if you dare a cross between Gene Autry and Count Basie. It was popular chiefly in the Southwest USA from the ‘30s through the early ‘50s as the big band era faded, so did Western Swing. In the ‘70s bands such as Asleep At The Wheel led a revival of Western Swing, and they’re still at it, bless ‘em. But whereas the Wheel lean more to the country side of the equation, the fab Texas combo Hot Club of Cowtown lean to the sultry small-group swing of Django Reinhardt & Quintette du Hot Club de France and American cousins Stuff Smith, Charlie Christian, Les Paul, and the Nat "King" Cole Trio.
A trio with select fellow travelers, the Hot Club of Cowtown is an organization whose rules are hot licks, streamlined soloing, and genial, driven swing. Elana James’ violin embodies the elegance of Stephane Grappelli and the gutsy aspects of Stuff Smith while guitarist Whit Smith knows Les Paul/Barney Kessel licks like a salamander knows wet leaves. Jake Erwin is a one-man rhythm section. What’s more, there’s nothing nudge-wink/overly retro/ironic in their approach. The vocals could be a little stronger, but HCC got spirit ‘n’ spunk to make up for it. Best of.... covers their career 1998-2003 it’s a dandy mix of originals, jazz and country standards. If you like any of the aforementioned artistes, Squirrel Nut Zippers, Asylum Street Spankers, Andrew Bird, Hot Club of Detroit, and/or Merle Haggard in his jazz-y moments, Best of Hot Club of Cowtown is essential as air.