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Hot Time in the Old Pueblo 

The Hot Club of Cowtown serves up a set of Western swing.

Though still of tender years, Elana Fremerman has seen plenty of musical fads come and go. It doesn't bother her that the storied genre in which she works, swing music, briefly blipped on the trend radar and has now all but disappeared.

"We saw a lot of bands trying to catch it by playing rock'n'roll on trombones," the Hot Club of Cowtown fiddler says. "But we've been doing this for a long time, and we draw a different crowd. We're an NPR/Borders kind of group, not a college bar thing."

Fremerman, a classically trained violinist, was playing in bands in New York when she teamed up with young guitar virtuoso Whit Smith in 1994. An aficionado of the likes of Bob Wills, Django Reinhardt, Hoagie Carmichael and Joe Venuti, Smith was playing in an 11-piece swing combo, Western Caravan. Fremerman joined the combo, while she and Smith worked as a duo in Greenwich Village clubs. After doing time in Southern California, the two relocated to Austin late in 1997 and, soon thereafter, signed with HighTone Records, which brought out a pair of albums in 1998 and 1999, Swingin' Stampede! and Tall Tales.

Their third HighTone release, Dev'lish Mary, came out last September, earning both good press and airplay on Americana and jazz stations. Highlighting Fremerman's reedy voice and Smith's fast fretwork and backed by guest artists such as pedal-steel player Bobby Koefer (of Bob Wills and Pee Wee King fame) and cornetist Peter Ecklund, the album features a pair of original compositions alongside a dozen-odd tunes from swing's golden age, such as Eddy Arnold's "Just a Little Lovin'," Wills' "You Don't Care What Happens to Me" and Carmichael's "Star Dust."

The Hot Club, having just added bass player Jake Erwin to the lineup, is now touring in support of the album. The tour, which opens in Tucson, will end five weeks later at the Grand Old Opry. Expect to hear a mix of swing and jazz standards and new songs, all delivered with expert musicianship and a good sense of humor. "We've been taking a little break," Fremerman says, "and we're refreshed. We may even be too enthusiastic. Anyway, it should be a lot of fun."





The Hot Club of Cowtown will make its Tucson debut on Friday, April 20 at 8 p.m., playing with local group The Kings of Pleasure. The show will take place at the International Arts Center, 516 N. Fifth Ave. Tickets are $12 in advance, $15 at the door, and are available at Antigone Books (411 N. Fourth Ave.), Brew & Vine (6435 N. Oracle Road), and Hear's Music (2508 N. Campbell Ave.). For more information, call presenter Jonathan Holden at 297-9133.

More by Gregory McNamee

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