Sometimes this Austin-based trio acts as if life itself don't mean a thing if it ain't got that western swing. But the band also has a soft spot for other vintage sounds, including Tin Pan Alley tunes and early jazz instrumentals that fuel their ensemble fervor and increase the fun of listening to this, their second album.
If the trio sounds more rambunctious than ever, high spirits never overshadow well-honed musicianship. Violinist Elana Fremerman, who has a knack for conjuring images of jazz fiddlers on both sides of the Atlantic, leads the way by making sure "Draggin' the Bow" never drags. From there, Fremerman and her bandmates -- guitarist Whit Smith and bassist Billy Horton -- revel in making old tunes sound new and new ones sound old. Smith's freshly coined "Emily," for example, recalls a time in pop music when love songs tended to come in one style -- simple and unabashed -- though the tunes were frequently enlivened by the pulse of traditional jazz.
Similarly, Fremerman cleverly evokes the past by kissing off a clueless beau on "Darling You and I Are Through" with the help of a bouncy, time-honored chord progression. Horton (and his brother Bobby) are the source for "You Can't Take It With You," another original tune that sits neatly beside the album's colorfully arranged collection of standards. Among these is a delightful western reprise of the Joe Venuti-Eddie Lang violin-guitar novelty "Wildcat," a gliding, popping remake of Bob Wills' "I Laugh When I Think How I Cried Over You," and a warmly old-fashioned arrangement of "Polkadots and Moonbeams." If this is retro, it's the refreshingly camp-free kind.
Appearing Sunday at Paddy Mac's.
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