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Hot Club of Cowtown Blisters Fretboards

“We lived in San Diego all of ’97,” says Whit Smith by phone from Delaware. As guitarist, Smith is one-third of the country-swing/hot-jazz group Hot Club of Cowtown. “We arrived New Year’s Day, 1997, and we lived in Pacific Beach.” Originally a duo of Smith and fiddler Elana James, the two started the group in New York and then moved west to build up their repertoire. “In no time, we were playing for tips in Balboa Park, and we played the Ocean Beach farmers’ market. And Café 976, when it was about half the size. Mostly, we played for tips. We didn’t even have a PA system — we just yelled out the words — and people would come and give us money, and all of the farmers’ market people would give us, you know, bread and apples and whatever. It was total bartering for a pleasant life. It was good.” In 1998, Smith and James relocated to Austin, Texas, and added bassist Jake Erwin.

This year, Hot Club is touring in support of What Makes Bob Holler, a tribute to 1940s Western-swing icon Bob Wills. Smith agrees that, contrary to the clean image projected by Wills and his Texas Playboys, those guys were in truth hard-living, hardcore rock stars. “Oh, yeah. They were making cash every night, playing for big audiences and traveling around.” Smith says Wills, known for hollering during his shows, was an influence on their music.

Hot Club of Cowtown holds with tradition, refusing to modernize, and the instrumental workouts are fretboard-blistering. Audiences that disdain country, says Smith, love the trio. “What people enjoy about us is that we’re sincere. The music’s got a lot of energy, and I think they like that.”

HOT CLUB OF COWTOWN: AMSDconcerts, Thursday, April 28, 7:30 p.m. 619-303-8176. $20.

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“We lived in San Diego all of ’97,” says Whit Smith by phone from Delaware. As guitarist, Smith is one-third of the country-swing/hot-jazz group Hot Club of Cowtown. “We arrived New Year’s Day, 1997, and we lived in Pacific Beach.” Originally a duo of Smith and fiddler Elana James, the two started the group in New York and then moved west to build up their repertoire. “In no time, we were playing for tips in Balboa Park, and we played the Ocean Beach farmers’ market. And Café 976, when it was about half the size. Mostly, we played for tips. We didn’t even have a PA system — we just yelled out the words — and people would come and give us money, and all of the farmers’ market people would give us, you know, bread and apples and whatever. It was total bartering for a pleasant life. It was good.” In 1998, Smith and James relocated to Austin, Texas, and added bassist Jake Erwin.

This year, Hot Club is touring in support of What Makes Bob Holler, a tribute to 1940s Western-swing icon Bob Wills. Smith agrees that, contrary to the clean image projected by Wills and his Texas Playboys, those guys were in truth hard-living, hardcore rock stars. “Oh, yeah. They were making cash every night, playing for big audiences and traveling around.” Smith says Wills, known for hollering during his shows, was an influence on their music.

Hot Club of Cowtown holds with tradition, refusing to modernize, and the instrumental workouts are fretboard-blistering. Audiences that disdain country, says Smith, love the trio. “What people enjoy about us is that we’re sincere. The music’s got a lot of energy, and I think they like that.”

HOT CLUB OF COWTOWN: AMSDconcerts, Thursday, April 28, 7:30 p.m. 619-303-8176. $20.

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4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
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