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Wednesday, Nov. 18, 2009

Hot Club of Cowtown

Wishful Thinking (Gold Strike/Thirty Tigers)

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The members of veteran Western swing/pop trio Hot Club of Cowtown don’t sound like they’re coming off of a mid-decade hiatus. Wishful Thinking finds vocalist/fiddler Elana James, vocalist/guitarist Whit Smith and upright bassist Jake Erwin together again—seven years after their last studio album, and this time with drums.

The album arguably swings more than earlier material, and as such may be the perfect entry point for new fans. Snazzy instrumentals “Heart of Romain” (which could be the soundtrack to an old Western movie) and “The Magic Violin” flirt with barn-dance ditties “If You Leave Me” and the public domain “Columbus Stockade Blues.” And the wistful “Reunion” belongs on commercial radio.

Recording traditional songs is fine, but a band that still sounds as good as Hot Club of Cowtown should be touting its own material, not century-old songs like Ira Gershwin’s “Someone to Watch Over Me.”