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Hot Club of Cowtown never sounds better

Johnny D's, Somerville, Mass., Oct. 8, 2002

By Jeffrey B. Remz

SOMERVILLE, MA. - The Hot Club of Cowtown has released four good, solid albums on HighTone, but quite simply, the trio's outing at a crowded club on a weeknight proves very clearly that the silver platter does not do this band steeped in the styles of Bob Wills and Django Reinhart justice.

The Austin-based group has developed into a very cohesive trio with Whit Smith on guitar, Elana Fremerman on fiddle and Oklahoman Jake Ervin on upright bass. Smith and Fremerman each take their turns on lead vocals.

Instrumentally, this band is top notch. Frederman plays a mean fiddle that sings and swerves and handles the music whatever the style - mainly Western swing, but sometimes more jazzy and sometimes more country.

Smith is an excellent guitarist who keeps it simple on his instrument. Faster isn't necessarily better, but he can do that too. At times, Frederman and Smith would trade off lines, clearly comfortable with each other's playing and only adding to the energy level.

And Ervin, who perhaps could have been given more time outfront, knows his way about the big bass too.

Vocally, Smith is clearly the better of the two. Frederman took a little while to hit it vocally - she can be slightly off pitch - but once she's there, she can handle the material. ("Secret of Mine")

As for the songs, the group played songs from all of their albums over the course of two sets and 140 minutes with numbers from the newest CD, "Ghost Train," like "Cherokee Shuffle" and "Fuli Tschai ("Bad Girl") standing out and standards like "Ida Red," "Take Me Back to Tulsa," and "Roly Poly," from the Wills catalogue.

Despite an enthusiastic crowd of about 175 people on a Tuesday night hearing Hot Club, Fremerman was a bit dismayed by the sound during the first set. She must have been hearing something different than the rest of us, though, because the Hot Club of Cowtown may never have sounded better.

©Country Standard Time • Jeffrey B. Remz, editor & publisher •
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