Monday, 10 August 2009
Texas to North Devon
We set the compass for the Plough, packed our dancing shoes and took to the road. The ancient and compact town of Torrington in North Devon was an unlikely venue for Austin, Texas quartet The Hot Club of Cowtown to display their mastery of Western Swing and Hot Jazz with some cocktail lounge standards on the side. This was the last but one engagement in a four week UK tour and they could be forgiven if a little fatigue set in but the energy levels and enthusiasm showed no sign of dipping. The musicianship was superb and the fiddle and upright bass in particular were slapped, bowed, plucked and picked with terminal velocity. Guitar and drums were unobtrusive but played a vital role in knitting it all together. Bob Wills and Johnny Gimble both got name-checks and were honoured by pulsating versions of Sally Goodin, Bubbles In My Beer and Ida Red. The band showed an impressive ability to switch with speed from playing music for lounge lizards and sophisticates to music for oil riggers and cowhands. Other highlights included Dev’lish Mary and Jack Guthrie’s Oklahoma Hills. If the magic of Western Swing eludes you, the book to read is Lone Star Swing: On the Trail of Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys by Duncan McLean.