For their fourth long-player, jazz and western swing trio Hot Club of Cowtown has stripped down to a mix of fiddle, guitar and bass that's augmented only by the piano of Joe Kerr. Their sly mix of hot licks and cool vocals remains equally driven by the twang of Texas roadhouses as the gypsy string jazz of Reinhardt and Grappelli, but the absence of guests creates a more intimate context.
The large helping of original songs gives violinist Elana Fremerman and guitarist Whit Smith a chance to coin their own vocals. Smith sings somnambulistically on tales of insomnia ("Sleep") and film noir circumstance ("It Stops With Me"). Fremerman tries out several different styles, including the sort of overdubbed close-harmonies Les Paul constructed around Mary Ford ("Forget-Me-Nots") and winsome ballads like "Home." Covers of traditional gypsy and fiddle tunes ("Fuli Tschai" and "Cherokee Shuffle" respectively), minstrel songs ("Pray for the Lights to Go Out"), Tin Pan Alley (Rodgers & Hart's "You Took Advantage of Me") and Aerosmith's "Chip Away the Stone" all mingle effortlessly with the originals.
The focus on the three players and the extra time spent in the studio has produced the most refined and focussed album of Hot Club's career. One can just imagine these tunes spinning from the speaker of your family's tube radio.