Although they strive to remain true to the traditions that inform their music, folk and roots musicians also show a willingness to experiment with collaborations across genres – whether that’s electrifying British folk music to create folk-rock or something like combining seemingly disparate traditions as the Afro Celt Sound System did. On paper, the latter sounds an unlikely proposition, but in reality the fusion of traditional Irish and Scottish music with African rhythms turned out to be something of a revelation.
Of course, not all collaborations are so successful but among those that have worked, and stood the test of time, is America’s extraordinary Hot Club Of Cowtown, who are headed to Cardiff this April. The band got their start in New York in 1994, when guitarist Whit Smith answered a Village Voice classified ad placed by fiddle player Elena James, looking for musicians who shared her eclectic tastes and dedication to traditional music.
That set in motion a chain of events that would lead to the formation of HCOC – a band that bring together the hot jazz made famous by Django Reinhardt and Stephane Grapelli with the western swing pioneered in the American Southwest by the likes of Bob Wills & His Texas Playboys. Initially, Whit and Elena established a full Western swing orchestra, but soon realised that they preferred the sound when it was stripped back to its essential elements.
A move to Austin, Texas and the addition of double bassist Jake Erwin completed the lineup and since then they’ve never looked back, releasing several critically acclaimed albums and wowing audiences around the globe with their jaw-dropping virtuosity and unforgettable live shows.
Since 2011, the band has released three albums dedicated to the music that influenced and shaped their sound, featuring material by artists such as Wills, Reinhardt, Grappelli, Bing Crosby, and Cindy Walker – but it’s onstage that the band really come into their own, as their dazzling virtuosity never fails to leave audiences wanting more.
About to embark on their first UK tour for some time, Hot Club Of Cowtown will be dropping into Cardiff at St David’s Hall on Tue 26 Apr as part of the ongoing Roots Unearthed series. Miss them at your peril.
Tickets: £21. Info: here
Buzz also recommends:
Gordon Giltrap. The guitarist’s guitarist. Acapela, Cardiff, Sun 24 Apr
The Fureys. Irish legends. Gwyn Hall, Neath, Wed 27 Apr
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