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Hot Club of Cowtown, Wildcat O'Halloran, Swimming Pool Qs

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Tuesday, August 06, 2013

Hot Club of Cowtown

Rendezvous in Rhythm

(Gold Strike)

Austin, Tex. trio Hot Club of Cowtown is renowned for both its deft instrumental virtuosity and the sheer energy level of its performers. Blending 1930s-era old-time song sensibility with bursts of Gypsy jazz and a dose of David Grisman-flavored bluegrass, the fiddle/bass/guitar swing combo creates music that often feels like it exists at the frame rate of old silent films, speedy and in stuttery 2/4 time. On Rendezvous in Rhythm, however, the mandate seems to be delivering mid-tempo standards (“I’m Confessin’,” “Melancholy Baby”) rather than blistering fiddle or guitar parts. Still, they do add a few accelerating numbers like Reinhardt and Grappelli’s famous “Minor Swing,” earning press accolades like “If rosin were flammable, violinist Elana [James] would be charged with arson” (ink19.com) and “fleet-fingered solos improvised over dangerous changes can leave a listener slack-jawed and winded.” (Guitar Magazine).

Wildcat O’Halloran

Still Playin That Damn Guitar

(Dove’s Nest)

A Pioneer Valley blues legend for more than 25 years, Wildcat O’Halloran still delights in the kind of performance that leaves his audience members hooting and hollering for more. Or, at least, such a longevity-driven passion for blues seems to be clearly on display in his newest release, recorded during a live show earlier this year. This latest recording proves definitively that the Wildcat’s smooth-moving guitar hands and gravel-scraping vocal cords are here to stay—getting better every year he continues to take the stage—and that his unadulterated love for the genre lives on in blistering riffs and urgently-shared verses, too. Bouncing between original songs and blues covers, Wildcat’s live set feels both balanced and breathless in all the right ways. Longtime fans all over the Valley (and new listeners alike) will be satisfied, no doubt, by this latest installation in a long career.

Swimming Pool Qs

The A&M Years

(Bar None)

Thanks to the B-52s and R.E.M., The Swimming Pool Qs may not be at the tip of your tongue when it comes to Georgia New Wave bands. In part, there’s clear reason for that: the Qs’ music doesn’t possess the overboard charm of the B-52s nor the brooding mumbliness of R.E.M., each a particularly distinct calling card. Still, the Qs’ point of origin seems to play a clear role in its sound; it’s jangly, wistful and playful all at once, all clear markers of Southern New Wave DNA. This is music that’s steeped in its era, though it’s hard to pinpoint exactly why, beyond the chorus-heavy tones and vague matters of feel. This isn’t synthed-up, soulless ’80s pop, but stripped-down, guitar-driven rock, full of ragged edges. The band is plenty melodic with its male-female vocals, but its melodies seldom create ear worms. These re-released LPs and rarities provide a solidly interesting postcard from the past, though they may not have you scrambling for the band’s more recent output.

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