Friday, February 18, 2011

Hot Club Of Cowtown: "What Makes Bob Holler" (2011) CD Review

A tribute to Bob Wills And His Texas Playboys, this CD will raise spirits and get folks smiling and dancing.

When people say they don't like country music, it's clear they haven't heard stuff like this new album from Hot Club Of Cowtown. Because, sure, there is a lot of bad country out there, but then there are albums like this one.

What Makes Bob Holler is full of music that has universal appeal - it's fun, innocent, sweet and real. It's true - you know? It speaks to something at the core of all of us, below those layers of artifice and affectation, behind our protective barriers. Strip away all the nonsense - and you'll find Hot Club Of Cowtown. This is the heart of country, and that's - frankly - the heart of the people.

Then there's the fact that these three musicians are at the top of their game. They make it seem easy, effortless. So perfectly natural, that the listener might be fooled into thinking that he or she can pick up a fiddle or guitar and - without a lesson - make the instrument reveal everything he or she wants to say, everything he or she feels. And who knows? Maybe he can.

What Makes Bob Holler is a tribute to Bob Wills And His Texas Playboys. Bob Wills, known as the King of Western Swing, was born in Texas in 1905. He's probably best known for the song "New San Antonio Rose." He also had a film career in the 1940s, appearing in such films as Take Me Back To Oklahoma (1940) and A Tornado In The Saddle (1942).

"She's Killing Me"
What Makes Bob Holler starts off with "She's Killing Me." This is fun, old timey music to get the toes tapping and the spirits high. Ah, to sing, "She's killing me" with such a bright tone and optimism and spirit. This song features a nice bass solo section by Jake Erwin.

"She's Killing Me" was written by Claude Nichols.

"It's All Your Fault"

On "It's All Your Fault" Elana James sings with a voice right out of the 1940s. Beautiful. There is also some nice electric guitar work by Whit Smith. "It's All Your Fault" was written by Cindy Walker.

"Maiden's Prayer"

"Maiden's Prayer" is a pretty instrumental - sweet and easy - with wonderful work on fiddle. The fiddle soars on this one. If all prayers sounded like this, the gods couldn't help but answer every damn one of them. And there wouldn't be a non-believer anywhere. "Maiden's Prayer" was written by Bob Wills.

"Oklahoma Hills"

Hot Club Of Cowtown do a great job with "Oklahoma Hills," a cheerful folk tune written by Jack Guthrie and Woody Guthrie.

Woody Guthrie wrote what should be the official national anthem of the United States, "This Land Is Your Land" (and I urge you all to start singing it at sporting events and wherever else the national anthem is sung).

"Big Ball In Cowtown"

"Big Ball In Cowtown" is a fun, quick song to get folks dancing. It features some wonderful fiddle. The lyrics, by Hoyle Nix, are simple - nothing more than what's needed. The chorus is, "Big Ball's in Cowtown/We'll all go down/Big Ball's in Cowtown/We'll dance around."

"Smith's Reel"

"Smith's Reel" is a fast-paced instrumental. It starts off as a fiddle tune, but then the electric guitar takes a turn at lead. That's a rare thing for a reel, but it works wonderfully. There is also a very cool bass section.

"The Devil Ain't Lazy"

"The Devil Ain't Lazy" is great country swing, with some call-and-response. Whit Smith sings lead on this one. Written by Fred Rose, this song has some playful lyrics: "He tells us he won't hurt a fly/Then he makes us steal and lie/Keeps us sinning 'til we die/He works twenty-four hours a day."

"Faded Love"

"Faded Love" is an instrumental written by Bob Wills and John Wills. It boasts a sad title, but is a sweet and pretty tune. It sounds like the end of a long day, as the suns sets, and you strip off all cares and burdens and relax by a fire or stove.

"What's The Matter With The Mill"

"What's The Matter With The Mill" is another great happy tune with a call and response, with Elana taking the lead vocals, and the guys responding. It features some seriously excellent work by Whit Smith on guitar. This song also has a nice bass solo. (Is there anything that can beat the sound of a stand-up bass?) There is a wild (but brief) section a near the end where the guitar and fiddle work in conjunction, sounding amazing.

"What's The Matter With The Mill" was written by Bob Wills and Tommy Duncan.

"Osage Stomp"

"Osage Stomp" is an uptempo instrumental, with some great work on bass. Actually, all three take turns standing out on this fantastic track. "Osage Stomp" was written by Bob Mills.

"Stay A Little Longer"

The album concludes with a song to keep 'em dancing. "Stay A Little Longer" is fun, fun, fun. It begins with a great bass line, and then the other instruments come in over it, dancing and playing. The chorus is, "Stay all night/Stay a little longer/Dance all night/Dance a little longer/Pull off your coat/Throw it in a corner/I don't see why you don't stay a little longer."

It was written by Tommy Duncan and Bob Wills.

CD Track List

  1. She's Killing Me
  2. It's All Your Fault
  3. Time Changes Everything
  4. Maiden's Prayer
  5. Oklahoma Hills
  6. Big Ball In Cowtown
  7. Keeper Of My Heart
  8. Smith's Reel
  9. The Devil Ain't Lazy
  10. Along the Navajo Trail
  11. Faded Love
  12. What's The Matter With The Mill
  13. Osage Stomp
  14. Stay A Little Longer

Hot Club Of Cowtown is Elana James on fiddle and vocals, Whit Smith on guitar and vocals, and Jake Erwin on bass and backing vocals. They formed in 1994. Since then, they've released several albums, including 2009's Wishful Thinking.

What Makes Bob Holler was recorded in three days in May of 2010. It is scheduled to be released February 1, 2011 through Proper American. Hot Club Of Cowtown are based in Austin, Texas.

(This review was originally posted on January 11, 2011.)

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