There is little disputing Hot Club of Cowtown’s reputation as America’s number one hot jazz and western swing trio – and Sheffield has long offered a warm welcome to this most exhilarating and joyous of musical exports.
Over the years, the outfit have played the Memorial Hall, the Montgomery Theatre, Sheffield Cathedral and a short-lived music bar, One Eleven, on Arundel Street.
Now they are returning to the Memorial Hall next Wednesday (November 8) on a 20th anniversary tour.
Singer and fiddle player Elana James is getting to know the lovely venue at the back of the City Hall pretty well. She has also played there as part of her own trio.
Cowtown are completed by Whit Smith on guitar and vocals and Jake Erwin on upright bass and vocals – a ridiculously talented trio who fuse together with breathtaking virtuosity one moment and slow down to a sentimental love song the next.
They were formed in New York through their shared appreciation of the swing and jazz of the 1920s to the 40s, eventually relocating to Austin, Texas. Their influences are the gypsy jazz of Django Reinhardt as well as the western swing of 40s Texas.
On a visit to Sheffield seven years ago they were promoting their album tribute to swing king Bob Wills, What Makes Bob Holler.
Another of their influences is Bob Dylan – and he likes them, too. James was hired to play with his band and Cowtown have toured with him.
There have been a dozen or so fine albums but the band are at their hottest on stage with, hopefully, the opportunity to marvel again at the outrageously high-speed Orange Blossom Special.
* The band’s first recording, Western Clambake made in 1997 and previously only on cassette, is now released on CD.