The linoleum on the dance floor at the Continental Club on South Congress in Austin is so badly worn away that the concrete scree beneath has become polished smooth by the millions of steps that have danced across its surface.
There were plenty of feet adding to the shine this evening when The Hot Club Of Cowtown took to the stage this evening during their residency at the club. As the band played their unique take on old-time western swing the floor was full of couples beautifully dancing the assorted polka’s and waltz’s.
The band is comprised of virtuoso fiddler and vocalist, Elana James, Whit Smith on guitar and vocals, and Jake Erwin who played a mean upright bass that he slapped around so much the Ironbath had to enquire whether he hurts his hands.
The Ironbath had seen Elana James, a couple of nights earlier when she played a set upstairs at the Continental accompanied by a few hand-picked old-time musicians, including the excellent Erik Hokkanen. Then it was a soporific collection of melodies that Elana’s caramel tinged vocal brought to life interspersed with occassional rowdy wake up calls by Erik’s up tempo lunges.
Yesterday’s performance featured the Cowtown’s take on some of the same songs, many of them originally written and performed by Texan musical legend, Bob Wills. It also featured many of the bands own recordings including several that are due to be included on their next album.
The beauty of their music, though, is that you cannot easily tell what is an original composition and what is a modern take on an age old tune – at least without careful study of the music of Bob Wills & west Texas swing.
Much of the crowd and most of the dancers were at both shows, including the faithful dog that slept soundly at the side of the stage of both shows.
The Hot Club Of Cowtown are one of those curious bands that have made their way in music by reflecting and reproducing the songs of another era whilst adding a delicate tinge of themselves. They have side-stepped fashion, but in doing so they have preserved the music of another generation for a future generation. Their performances are like a musical museum – although there is no chance that any dust is allowed to settle on their exhibits.
In any other branch of the arts what The Hot Club Of Cowtown does would attract sizable philantrophic grants and corporate sponsorship, and patrons would dress up in their finest evening wear for an entertainment in plush surroundings.
But The Hot Club of Cowtown plays for tips, and their patrons (well some of them, at least) pull on their finest boots and dance across the polished concrete floor where the linoleum used to be at the Continental Club.