Elana's bowing her fiddle faster than the speed of light; Whit Smith's right arm is producing rhythms so tight you could bounce a nickel off 'em; Jake Erwin's slapping, tapping, and barely touching his standup bass strings in double time — and no one's cuttin' a rug. 'Course, since we're elbow-to-elbow in 19 rows of pews, dancing could only erupt in a Robert Crumb “To hell with the man — no, we'll convert the man to the cosmic swing giggles!” cartoon.

The mash of hippie veterans, gypsy-jazz fanatics, and hoedown-lovers compensates for the lack of physical movement with ravenous howls and cheers. Original inspiration/grounding stone Bob Wills's version of “What's the Matter with the Mill,” as well as old-as-dirt standards “She's Killing Me” and “Ida Red” are fattened with adrenalized instrumental breaks that keep the admiration burning. But the buzz in the air also relates to the feeling Cowtown's on a bit of a tightrope; anything might happen — and did, when the group turned Aerosmith's “Chip Away the Stone” into a spoonful of down-home, bittersweet honey that's unspooled tonight. Smith's ’46 Gibson L5 emits impossibly bright (especially on the single notes, more Les Paul than Django Reinhardt) tones. The risk of folding in more originals pays off onstage, tonight with the Reinhardt/Grappelli–seasoned instrumental “Heart of Romaine” and Elana's haunting “Cabiria.” Cowtown's joy is infectious. The after-show meet-’n’-greet, ostensibly for merch and autographs, dissolves into a virtual love fest. Hearing that I had trouble getting performance pics, Elana cuddles her pup Eva, who I've been admiring, the better to share the spotlight.

  • Concert: Hot Club of Cowtown
  • Date: August 13
  • Venue: AMSD concerts
  • Seats: 9th row; up front and to the right

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