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Cowtown Trio: For Non-Texans, Western Swing Is World Music

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Dave Creaney
L to R: Whit Smith, Jake Erwin, Elana James.

The year was 1994, and a newspaper ad led to the formation of the long-running Western swing band Hot Club of Cowtown—in New York City. You might think it an odd place to hear the songs of Bob Wills, but to hear guitarist Whit Smith tell it, “God just put me there,” he says. Smith had answered the call from fiddler Elana James, and it wasn’t too much longer that bassist Jake Erwin joined.

They’ve been performing steadily for over two decades now, all over the world. “Even people who obviously don’t speak English, they just pick up on the enthusiasm and the sincerity, and the beauty of the harmony and the melodies,” explains Erwin. The band even jokes that they refer to themselves as “World Music,” because for listeners abroad, it is!

Hot Club of Cowtown brought their gently swinging Western sounds to Jazz, TX recently, playing original tunes, classics of the Western genre, and even some standards like “Exactly Like You” and “Polka Dots and Moonbeams.”

Hear “Live at Jazz, TX” Saturday nights at 7:00 on Texas Public Radio, or get a preview by listening to the show in the audio player below.

Nathan has been with TPR since 1995, when he began working on classical music station KPAC 88.3 FM, as host of “Tuesday Night at the Opera.”  He soon learned the ropes on KSTX 89.1 FM, and volunteered to work practically any shift that came his way, on either station. He worked in nearly every capacity on the radio before moving into Community Engagement, Marketing, and Digital Media. His reporting and criticism has been honored by the Houston Press Club and Texas Associated Press.