What''s Up, Chuck?
Swing 'n' Rock --Hot Club of Cowtown re-creates western swing; Four Fathom Bank Robbers revive southern rock.
Thursday, January 28, 1999
It was great to see a decent-size crowd turn out to see the Austin Lounge Lizards last Thursday night at Doc''s. Many of those same people are likely to want to drop by Morgan''s tonight (Thursday, 1/28) to see Hot Club of Cowtown.
It''s not that the two bands play the same kinds of music, but they both build a contemporary sound on the foundation of an older style of music. In the case of the Lizards, of course, their roots are bluegrass. Hot Club, on the other hand, has the good fortune to be planted in one of the most fertile and popular styles of music today: swing. Never mind that it''s primarily western swing, a musical style that only old folks and freaks listened to five years ago. Today''s dancers, of all ages, will find plenty to like about this band.
Although Hot Club is young--in its current incarnation it''s less than two years old--the band plays the music that Bob Wills defined (if not invented) back in the ''20s and ''30s. Right now, there are lots of bands trying to recreate that music from a bygone era, in a more or less calculating way to cash in on the swing craze--and their insincerity usually gives ''em away real quickly. With Hot Club, though, you got sincerity dripping from Elana Fremerman''s fiddle, sparkling from Whit Smith''s guitar, and booming from Billy Horton''s bass.
Smith and Fremerman met in New York while doing a long-running swing gig with an 11-piece band called Western Caravan at the Rodeo Bar. They eventually hooked up with Horton in Austin, Texas in late ''97 and Hot Club was born.
The band''s 1998 release, Swingin'' Stampede, is full of the music you''d expect from a western swing outfit--Bob Wills standards like "Just Friends" and "My Confession"--as well as a few surprises like George Gershwin''s "Somebody Loves Me." All in all it''s a strong offering, filled with an authentic, if somewhat updated sound.
But how is Morgan going to keep people in their chairs once the music starts?
Hot Club of Cowtown, Thursday, 8pm. Morgan''s Coffee and Tea, $10, 655-6868.
Back many and many a year ago, I thought the Allman Brothers were great. And I could kind of hang with Lynyrd Skynyrd; really loved the Black Crowes'' first album.
And there''s still a soft spot in my heart for get-down, southern, barroom, roots-rock. Still, I have to wonder at young bands starting out who set out to follow such a well-worn path. Such a band is Four Fathom Bank Robbers, which is appearing at Whitey''s on Saturday.
But, my queasiness aside, judging by Four Fathom''s 1998 release, Mama Pray for Your Son, this band really rocks. Yes, it''s definitely haunted by the Allman Brothers, there''s no getting away from it. But it''s good, tight music, there''s only one cover tune out of 11 songs on the CD, and the band sounds fresh.
Particularly notable are Julian Duff''s vocals, which give his songs a smoke-roughened, whiskey-soaked authenticity. Backing him up--and quite ably--are Kevin Wallace on lead and slide guitar, Mike Tumilty on bass and Darrell Moran on drums.
If you''re looking for some good beer-drinking, roadhouse, dance-hall rock this weekend, Four Fathom is the band you''re looking for.
Four Fathom Bank Robbers, Saturday, 9pm. Whitey''s Place, 646-8383.
Meanwhile, the latest rockabilly band to blow into town, Danny Dean and the Homewreckers, comes to Doc''s.
Lead singer Danny Dean Phillips has a long musical pedigree in Los Angeles where he was primarily involved in the punk scene (most notably with the bands Anti and Easter). Not having heard their music, these guys come into town as a kind of a dark horse. But with the quality of music that Doc''s has been booking lately, it''s probably safe to take a chance.
Danny Dean and the Homewreckers, Friday, 9pm. Doc''s Nightclub, 649-4241.
And at Blue Fin Billiards, Jeffrey Halford and the Healers make a return engagement.
I first got a chance to listen to The Healers'' debut CD, Kerosene, when the band was here last fall, and I was very impressed. It''s good rootsy, balls-out rock that''s related to The Blasters (maybe as second cousins?) but with lyrics that are stronger, more intelligent, and delivered with a passion.
If you missed ''em the first time they were here, don''t make the same mistake again.
Jeffrey Halford & the Healers, Saturday, 9pm. Blue Fin Billiards and Cafe, 375-7000.