Ghost Trainby The Hot Club of Cowtown
The fourth album from the trio known as the Hot Club of Cowtown is an atmospheric piece of work that purports to be not mere music but a world unto itself. Produced by the impeccable Gurf Morlix (Lucinda Williams), Ghost Train rumbles into a place where David Lynch meets Bob Wills and Django Reinhardt. Thus, nothing is as it seems with this particular Hot Club, so be advised to dig beneath a series of deceptive surfaces. That jazzy, bouncing opening ditty called "Sleep"? Listen a little harder and you'll hear a weary-voiced Whit Smith fairly begging for relief from endless restless nights as the buoyant music mocks his plight. The carefree western swing of "Forget-Me-Nots" and Elana Fremerman's amiable vocal summon memories of the exuberant antics of the Maddox Brothers and Sister Rose, until Fremerman, in singing of her unrequited love, announces that when she picks flowers, "forget-me-nots I'm skippin'/I'm leavin' them behind." The group even manage to find a kindred spirit in Rodgers & Hart, whose "You Took Advantage of Me" gets a sprightly musical and vocal treatment as Fremerman sings jubilantly of the man who swept her away, albeit with a slight accusatory tone in her voice. There's hot fiddling on Ghost Train that evokes the spirit of Stephane Grappelli at the Hot Club of France and tight, jazzy western swing à la the Texas Playboys at Cain's Academy in Tulsa. It's all heady, intoxicating stuff, not quite like anything else around. Some may call it retro, but this Ghost Train's riding on a steel rail that still ain't heard the news.
- Release Date:
- Hightone Records
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For their fourth long-player, this jazz and western swing trio has penned their largest yet helping of originals. The band¿s stripped-down mix of fiddle, guitar and bass, augmented only by Joe Kerr¿s piano, is a sly mix of hot licks and cool vocals, equally hill-driven by the twang of Texas roadhouses as the gypsy string jazz of Reinhardt and Grappelli. ¶ Producer Gurf Morlix continues the direction taken by Lloyd Maines on the band¿s previous album, focussing on studio tracking and delivering a polished, constructed album. It¿s not without swing (Jake Erwin¿s propulsive upright bass makes sure of that), but the finish is that of a studio album, rather than the live stage, and the lack of guest players creates a much more intimate sound than the band has previously laid down on wax. ¶ The original songs give violinist Elana Fremerman and guitarist Whit Smith a chance to coin their own vocals. Smith often employs a somnambulistic style that finely matches tales of insomnia ("Sleep") and shady film noir circumstance ("It Stops With me"). Fremerman tries out several different styles, including the sort of overdubbed close-harmonies Les Paul constructed around Mary Ford ("Forget-Me-Nots," with Smith adding fluid instrumental embroidery), and winsome ballads like "Home." ¶ The band shows itself to be increasingly immersed in their chosen style, rather than merely imitative of it. Covers of traditional gypsy and fiddle tunes ("Fuli Tschai" and "Cherokee Shuffle," respectively), minstrel songs ("Pray for the Lights to Go Out"), Tin Pan Alley (Rodgers & Hart¿s "You Took Advantage of Me") and Aerosmith¿s "Chip Away the Stone" all mingle effortlessly with the originals. ¶ The focus on the band¿s three players and the extra time spent in the studio (in which they are obviously more comfortable than ever) has resulted in the most refined and focussed album of Hot Club¿s career. One can just imagine these tunes spinning from the speaker of your family¿s tube radio.