Hot Club Of Cowtown
Wishful Thinking (Gold Strike)
Reviewed by Jim Caligiuri, Fri., Aug. 28, 2009
Hot Club Of CowtownWishful Thinking (Gold Strike)
They broke up in 2005, but Wishful Thinking proves the Hot Club of Cowtown belongs together. Fiddler Elana James, guitarist Whit Smith, and stand-up bassist Jake Erwin haven't made a studio album together since 2002's Ghost Train, yet here the local trio reaches another level of musicality. Whether covering Bob Wills (clattering set opener "Can't Go on This Way") or playing gyspy jazz à la inspirations Django Reinhardt and Stéphane Grappelli with "Heart of Romain," the band surprises on Wishful Thinking with greater sensitivity and sophistication than anything the threesome has done before. Adding depth is the first-time inclusion of a drummer, Damien Llanes, who brings propulsion to "What You Meant to Me" and flashes his brushes tastefully throughout. The group chose covers artfully as well. Smith handles Hoagy Charmichael's "Georgia" ardently, while James sparkles on Tom Waits' "The Long Way Home" and breathes sexy through George and Ira Gershwin's "Someone to Watch Over Me." Few bands make their best work years after forming, even fewer after breaking up and reforming, but Wishful Thinking is the Cowtowners at their peak.