Album Review: Hot Club of Cowtown – What Makes Bob Holler

Juli Thanki | February 9th, 2011

Hot Club of Cowtown - What Makes Bob HollerYou’d think that Hot Club of Cowtown would have recorded a Bob Wills & His Texas Playboys tribute album earlier in their twelve-year history, considering that they named their band in honor of Wills (and gypsy jazz pioneer Django Reinhardt’s Hot Club of France). Luckily, What Makes Bob Holler is a covers album that’s worth the wait.

Though it would have been easy to fill a fourteen-song album with Wills’ most famous songs (and What Makes Bob Holler does have several of those tracks), Hot Club recorded a few lesser known gems as well, the best of which is an upbeat, infectious version of the call and response song “The Devil Ain’t Lazy” led by guitarist Whit Smith. Smith also leads the band on album opener “She’s Killing Me,” an irresistible boogie that features fine musicianship, especially from Jake Erwin, whose rubbery bass solo on this song is one of the album’s high points. Fiddler Elana James takes center stage on a sweet instrumental rendition of “Faded Love” and delivers a sultry version of “Keeper of My Heart” that sounds straight out of a smoky East Texas dance hall. The whole record, in fact, sounds straight out of a dance hall—the band and producer Paul Riley do an admirable job of capturing the freewheeling energy of a live performance whilst in the studio.

Ending the album with a swingin’ version of “Stay a Little Longer,” one of the greatest songs ever recorded, Hot Club of Cowtown proves that Bob Wills is still the king, and they remain his devoted subjects.

3.5 Stars

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  1. [...] the latest Hot Club of Cowtown record, What Makes Bob Holler, the band paid tribute to the influence of Bob Wills with a collection of covers. Will Taylor and Strings Attached used their new record to [...]
  1. Dave D.
    February 9, 2011 at 8:57 am

    Never knew “The Devil Ain’t Lazy” was a Bob Wills song; that explains why Asleep at the Wheel covered it awhile back.

    The 3.5 star rating seems a little inconsistent with the text of the review, which was uniformly positive.

  2. Fizz
    February 9, 2011 at 12:53 pm

    I thought the same thing, about the rating. I hope “Heart To Heart” isn’t included. Even if ti was a hit, it never seemed indicative of what Wills was really about.

  3. Jon
    February 9, 2011 at 12:55 pm

    @Fizz

    *facepalm*

    Who are you to say what Wills was “really about?” On what grounds are you basing that erroneous assertion? Perhaps the song’s writers had a different opinion than yours, could that be?

  4. Fizz
    February 9, 2011 at 12:56 pm

    That was me impersonating Jon. How was I?

  5. Barry Mazor
    February 9, 2011 at 1:05 pm

    What I wish, sometimes, is that we’d see some Western Swing tributes to artists beyond Wills, whom by now a lot of people think was all there was to the style. I love Bob Wills and co. myself, but where’s the “Tribute to Milton Brown, Cliff Bruner, Bill Boyd, Bob Dunn” and so many more who were Western Swing contributors? I sometimes feel like “Bob Wills’ in yet another title is a sort of sales shortcut.

  6. C.M. Wilcox
    February 9, 2011 at 1:55 pm

    What I wish, sometimes, is that we’d see some Western Swing tributes to artists beyond Wills, whom by now a lot of people think was all there was to the style.

    The Great Recession Orchestra released a solid tribute to Milton Brown last year. Here’s the website: http://www.newtexasswing.com/

  7. Jon
    February 9, 2011 at 2:09 pm

    Hmm, I wouldn’t call that Brown tribute very solid. Big points for conception, not so many for execution…

  8. stormy
    February 9, 2011 at 2:35 pm

    Fizz
    February 9, 2011 at 12:53 pm #I thought the same thing, about the rating. I hope “Heart To Heart” isn’t included. Even if ti was a hit, it never seemed indicative of what Wills was really about

    It isn’t.

  9. Jon
    February 9, 2011 at 3:02 pm

    You mean “Heart To Heart Talk?” Great song; I’ve loved it ever since I heard the Leona Williams/Merle Haggard version years ago.

  10. Fizz
    February 9, 2011 at 6:07 pm

    Maybe for Leona and Merle, but when I think Bob Wills, I wanna jam!

  11. Jon
    February 9, 2011 at 6:46 pm

    Well, I’m sure that’s true, and I’ll bet you’re just as cute as a button when you’re playing air guitar, or whatever it is that you do when you jam, but that’s a statement about what you like to do, not what Bob Wills was all about.

  12. Rick
    February 9, 2011 at 7:15 pm

    The Hot Club is one of the most entertaining live acts I’ve seen and fortunately they usually swing through Southern California once a year. I already have my ticket for their April 29 show at McCabe’s Guitar Shop in Santa Monica and the Santa Clarita Cowboy Festival the following 2 days where they play a couple of sets each day.

    The samples I’ve heard off this album seemed like the production was a bit thin and maybe a little “too live”. If a person was going to purchase their first Hot Club CD, I’d steer them towards “Ghost Train” instead of this.

  13. Fizz
    February 10, 2011 at 9:04 am

    But is it not true nonetheless that “Heart To Heart Talk” isn’t representative of Bob Wills’s career? You hate speculation, so I’ll throw this out there just to make you mad: “Heart To Heart Talk” sounds like, “Bob’s Broke, So Let’s Try And Ressurect His Career By Having Him Do Something Current, Rather Than What He’s Known For.”

    Incidentally, don’t knock the air-guitar. A little movement might do you some good. You’d have to undo the top button on your bowling shirt to do it, but might I suggest growing your hair out and incorporating a little windmill into your act?

  14. Libby
    February 10, 2011 at 10:00 am

    FIZZ/JON

    Give it a break!

    Jon, especially you. I expect better from you.

  15. Jon
    February 10, 2011 at 10:06 am

    “Heart To Heart Talk” sounds like, “Bob’s Broke, So Let’s Try And Ressurect His Career By Having Him Do Something Current, Rather Than What He’s Known For.”

    Who’s supposed to be saying that? Oh, right, Da Man. Do you know anything about those sessions, or about any of WIlls’ sessions? Or indeed, anything at all about him, other than what music of his you’ve happened to stumble across that you happened to like?

    The point is that right from the start of his career, Wills was recording a variety of material, from blues to old fiddle tunes to Tin Pan Alley (a/k/a pop) ditties to covers of popular big bands to, yes, romantic ballads and sentimental songs and even the occasional gospel song. And that – the whole ball of wax – is what Bob Wills was really about.

  16. Fizz
    February 10, 2011 at 10:15 am

    “Jon, you especially. I expect better from you.” <—-WHY?

    And last I checked, Bob Wills is the king of western swing, not the king of those other dabblings. You just playing devil's-advocate because this particular song tickles your ears?

  17. Jon
    February 10, 2011 at 10:31 am

    No, I’m trying to learn you something, dude. Western swing includes “those other dabblings,” a fact recognized by everyone from Ray Price (who included a couple of sentimental ballads on his 1961 tribute to Wills) to Merle Haggard (who included a couple of sentimental ballads on his 1970 Wills tribute) to Asleep At The Wheel (whose version of “Heart To Heart Talk” is probably the one you’re familiar with) to Hot Club Of Cowtown (see “a sultry version of “Keeper of My Heart”” above). It’s ok for you to just like one part of western swing, not ok for you to insist that it’s the alpha and omega of the style; like country music, it’s been multi-faceted from the start.

  18. Libby
    February 10, 2011 at 11:12 am

    FIZZ, because, as you just said, Jon hates speculation. I don’t like it either and I appreciate the fact that he’ll call people out when they are doing it. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but to project their feelings/thoughts on what any given artist is doing and/or why they are doing it doesn’t add anything to the discussion. For me it takes away from any credibility that person might have.

    But, if it makes you feel any better, he’s losing me fast by stooping to the type of back and forth you two are currently having.

  19. Dr. No
    February 10, 2011 at 11:20 am

    I enjoy watching it. I bought a Sam’s Club crate of microwave popcorn for these moments.

  20. Fizz
    February 10, 2011 at 1:09 pm

    Awww! But his buttons are so easy to push! A guy like Barry Mazor, who is equally knowledgeable, would be no fun to wind up, because he doesn’t invite it.

  21. Brady Vercher
    February 10, 2011 at 1:12 pm

    I’m with Libby regarding the back and forth pissing contest.

  22. Fizz
    February 10, 2011 at 2:03 pm

    It’s your football, so to speak.

  23. Paul W Dennis
    July 11, 2011 at 7:18 pm

    other western swing bands produced some good music – Bob Wills did it over an extended period of time, using a wide variety of band sizes and compositions

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