Many years ago in New York City, when singer-songwriter/violinist Elana James placed a want ad looking to join a band, guitarist Whit Smith responded. Little did she know that this would be the beginning of a collaboration that’s lasted more than 25 years.
“It’s hard to believe that Whit and I have been playing music more than half my life!,” says James. “We met in New York City through an ad in the Village Voice classifieds in 1994 and have been playing together ever since.
“The trio Hot Club of Cowtown, originally with bassist Jake Erwin, started in 1997 in San Diego, Calif., where Whit and I finessed our way into cafes and farmers markets and at public parks as ‘Whit and Elana,’ playing endless guitar and fiddle instrumental for tips. No one ever stopped to tell us you can’t create a world-traveling string trio inspired by hot jazz and early Western-swing dance music and do it for a living for going on a quarter century.
“We had the incredibly good fortune of playing with and being inspired by so many greats along the way — Johnny Gimble, Wille Nelson, Bob Dylan, Cliff Bruner, Tom Turman, Bryan Ferry, and the support of our fans worldwide, including so many in Austin, our home base for over two decades. The Continental Club, owned by the Austin roots music scene’s patron saint Steve Wertheimer, has been especially meaningful to us. That residency has, more than anything else, allowed us to grow and experiment and develop our unique sound, animated always by the dancers and fans who have been coming out to see us there for almost 25 years.
“We’ve been around the world and back — from Algeria to Azerbaijan, Sydney to Mt. Fuji, London to Mallorca, Antibes to Armenia (sometimes, it, seems, all in the same week!), and we look forward to many more adventures ahead with the Hot Club of Cowtown’s newest member, bassist Zack Sapunor, who joined us in 2020.”
With 14 albums and multiple awards under their belt, the Hot Club of Cowtown’s star has risen as its reputation for jaw-dropping virtuosity and unforgettable live shows has become the band’s global brand. Lauded for its “down-home melodies and exuberant improvisation” (The Times, London), the Hot Club has always woven a combination of seemingly disparate styles together to its own magical effect, setting up camp “at that crossroads where country meets jazz and chases the blues away” (The Independent), remaining “conscious always that above all else, the music is for dancing and an old-fashioned good time” (The New York Times).
The band also celebrates another anniversary with a first-ever vinyl edition of What Makes Bob Holler on the 10th anniversary of its release via the Last Music Co., due to hit stores on December 10, 2021. The album showcases Western swing standards made famous by Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys, and was a Top 20 on the Roots Radio Report Chart in 2011.
Their most recent album, Wild Kingdom (2013), will get its own vinyl reissue next year in conjunction with their European Spring tour.
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Upcoming Tour Dates (2021-2022):
Wed., Nov.10 AUSTIN, TX The Continental Club
Fri., Nov.12 LONE TREE, CO Lone Tree Arts Center w/Davina and the Vagabonds
Wed., Jan. 5 AUSTIN, TX The Continental Clun
Tues., Jan. 11 CHICAGO, IL City Winery
Wed., Jan.12 MADISON, WI The Bur Oak
Thurs., Jan. 13 MINNEAPOLIS, MN The Dakota
Fri., Jan. 14 RED WING, MN Sheldon Theatre for the Performing Arts w/ Davina and the Vagabonds
Sat., Jan. 22 CORRALES, NM Historic Old San Ysidro Church
Sun., Jan. 23 BERKELEY, CA Freight & Salvage
Tues.-Wed. Jan. 25-26 SEATTLE, WA Jazz Alley
Fri., Jan. 28 SACRAMENTO, CA Harlow’s
Sat., Jan. 29 MILL VALLEY, CA Sweetwater Music Hall
Wed., Feb. 2 AUSTIN, TX The Continental Club
Wed., Feb. 9 AUSTIN TX The Continental Club
Sat., Feb.12 LEWISVILLE, TX TBA
Wed., Feb. 16 DECATUR, GA Eddie’s Attic
Sat., Feb.19 SANIBEL ISLAN, FL Christensen Performance Hall
Thurs., April 7 STOUGHTON, WI Stoughton Opera House