Hot Club of Cowtown took its distinctive Western Swing sound to “Larry’s Country Diner” several times and became a Diner favorite.

“We’re a rustic act,” said Elana James, fiddler player for the Austin, Texas,-based trio. “We do hot jazz, 1930s and ‘40s vintage Parisian hot swing, but we also do western music.”

In 1994 in New York City, James placed an ad in the music section of The Village Voice looking to join a band, and guitarist Whit Smith answered it. Since then, the music these two have made has always been a secret brew of energy, joie de vivre and a respect for tradition that is often imitated but never equaled.

“If rosin were flammable, violinist Elana would be charged with arson,” commented a reviewer on the website.

By 1997, after founding a much larger Western swing orchestra in NYC, and the two pared back down to their essential elements. The duo that began as “Whit & Elana” grew with the addition of a bass player into Hot Club of Cowtown. In 2001 band’s lineup solidified with the arrival of bassist Jake Erwin, who cemented Hot Club’s larger-than-life, earth-shaking rhythmic foundation.

The trio moved to Austin, Texas, and released its first album, Swingin’ Stampede, in 1998 after signing with American roots label HighTone Records. Tall Tales (1999) and Dev’lish Mary (2000) soon followed.

In all Hot Club of Cowtown has released 16 albums worldwide. Two of those pay homage to Western music. “What Makes Bob Holler” arrived in 2011 with Western swing standards made famous by Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys, and in 2016 “Midnight on the Trail” reimagined cowboy ballads, traditional Western swing and songs by Gene Autry, Cindy Walker, Johnny Mercer, Bob Wills, Tommy Duncan and others.

“Unfussy and unpretentious, their blend of down-home melodies and exuberant improvisation harks back to a lost era of so-called western swing,” wrote Clive Davis in The London Times.When they plunge into Orange Blossom Special your thoughts turn not so much to runaway trains as to a B-52 tearing up a runway,”

Celebrating its 25th year in 2022, the trio looked back over an extensive touring career, both domestically and abroad, on their own and with other artists. Among the Country musicians with whom they have toured are Bob Dylan, Willie Nelson and the Mavericks.

The Belfast Telegraph called the Hot Club of Cowtown “a pretty much perfect country trio at the very top of their game.”

They’ve been headliners at jazz, folk and bluegrass festivals everywhere from the U.S. to Spain, to Scotland, Ireland and England, to Australia and Japan, but they list as a career highlight traveling as US State Department Musical Ambassadors to Azerbaijan, Armenia, Algeria, the Republic of Georgia and the Sultanate of Oman.

“Austin trio Hot Club of Cowtown sounds like it’s spent the last 40 years in tiny rural clubs,” stated a review in The Onion. “The group’s old-fashioned mixture of Western swing and hot jazz leaves all the irony at home, and what’s left is a refreshingly sweet-natured, accomplished, old-school treat, mixing the perky rhythms of swing masters like Bob Wills with the European gypsy music of Django Reinhardt .

They have been inducted into the Texas Western Swing Hall of Fame in 2004 and were asked to play at the grand opening of the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in Nashville, Tennessee. They were also included in Midsummer Night’s Swing at Lincoln Center.

“While its repertoire and style draw from classic western swing and hot violin/guitar jazz of the Parisian 1930s and ’40s, it’s one of the most original groups on the Americana circuit, deserving of attention both live and on record,” Craig Havighurst wrote of the trio in the Nashville Tennessean.

The London Times lauded the trio for its “down-home melodies and exuberant improvisation,” while The Independent noted that the band existed “at that crossroads where country meets jazz and chases the blues away.”

In demand for television appearances, the trio has appeared on U.S., U.K. and Middle Eastern television shows, among them were $40 a Day with Rachael Ray, Grand Ole Opry Live and Texas Music Cafe.

Their album Four Dead Batteries” is a compilation of tracks by Whit Smith’s Hot Jazz Caravan and the Hot Club of Cowtown and is the on the soundtrack of the movie “Four Dead Batteries.” Their music also appears on the soundtrack of indie movie In Search of a Midnight Kiss.”

“Perhaps the first thing one notices when listening to the Hot Club of Cowtown is its lack of irony, self-consciousness and forced hipness in embracing a style of music that so easily lends itself to such things,” wrote Neil Strauss in The New York Times.Stylistically, the band steps out from the shadow of its influences to become more than a faithful retro band that likes to raise its tempo every now and thenconscious always that above all else, the music is for dancing and an old-fashioned good time.

For tour dates visit

By Claudia Johnson