James Blood Ulmer, Hot Club Of Cowtown & David Lindley
The following night, even though entering a completely different stylistic terrain, there was still a feeling that familiar old music was being rerouted by dynamic practitioners from the modern realm. Here, in the intimately womb-like Joe's Pub, there was a melding of Western swing with elements of pure jazz, country, blues and rock 'n' roll. Whenever and wherever they play, Austin's Hot Club Of Cowtown threesome is guaranteed to entertain and communicate, without needing to dilute its varied essences of old-time authenticity, honing its craft for well over a decade, now, and it shows.
The vocals were shared out, and so too were the solos, with Elana James dominating in terms of sheer gusto in her personality, fiddling and vocal delivery. Whit Smith was a spirited competitor for attention, providing a run of twanging rockabilly-derived guitar solos, while upright bassist Jake Erwin lived a double life as a percussionist, so thwacking were his solo lines.
Correct me if I'm wrong, but did I hear them singing "Big Balls In Cowtown," as Bob Wills received the AC/DC treatment? Well, the Hot Club's latest album, What Makes Bob Holler (Proper, 2011), is devoted to the Texas Playboys repertoire, so their Joe's Pub set was fittingly plump with Wills numbers. Unaccustomed to the venue's operational tactics, the group was slightly thrown by the pressure to condense all its energies into a single, 70-minute set. Usually, the Cowtowners settle into a roadhouse-style joint for two or three hours, stretching out with an even more extensive songbook. Nevertheless, they adapted very well, playing faster and harder than ever. They even caught their collective breath and offered the occasional slowie.
March 28, 2011
Since the passing of Les Paul, his long established Monday night spot at Broadway's Iridium club has been steadily evolving. Initially, there was an attempt to team the old guitar-slinger's trio with a series of guest artists, but lately that crew has tended to open up each set with their own separate sequence, followed by the night's visiting guitarist performing either solo or with their own backing musicians. When Californian multi-string man David Lindley made one of his rare visits to town, he elected to sing and play alone. This seems eminently appropriate, given his wide array of guitar-like instruments, always ready to alter the tone of each tune. It was hard to identify some of Lindley's axes, but he concentrated mostly on his Irish bouzouki (or was it a Turkish saz?) and a customized big-bodied acoustic guitar.
Lindley began his career in the late-1960s with Kaleidoscopeattuned, even then, to the sounds of global folk music. He followed this with an extended stint as Jackson Browne's sideman, then began to work regularly with Ry Cooder. A highlight of Lindley's evolution was the album that grew out of a journey to Madagascar with fellow guitarist Henry Kaiser, A World Out Of Time, Volumes 1-3 (Shanachie, 1992-1994).
There was great substance to Lindley's performance. Arriving near the close of his first set, and witnessing all of the second, it was easy to marvel at the switches between introverted instrumental virtuosity and the more extreme narrative escapades of his vocal numbers. I surely will not laugh again so profoundly, during 2011, as I did during Lindley's perfectly-timed escalation of backstage food-revulsion that is "Catfood Sandwiches." Tears of mirth were flowing amongst the audience, cheeks aching en masse with prolonged smiling. Lindley was an inspired storyteller, which came as a secret bonus for those who've always considered him to be primarily a guitar master in the inward-looking sense.