western

Hot Club of Cowtown's new CD salutes Bob Wills

Bob Wills has always been a core inspiration for the Hot Club of Cowtown’s sound, but it has taken the Texas-based trio a dozen years to fully honor the King of Western swing. A fortuitous tour in England last spring led the band to London’s Specific Sound studio, where they spent two days recording a 14-song marathon of only Bob Wills tunes. The result, What Makes Bob Holler, is a lively tribute to the American music icon, respecting Wills’ legendary music while putting Hot Club’s own signature on these songs. “We have been meaning to make this album for a long time,” says Elana James, who co-founded Hot Club with Whit Smith (they’re joined by bassist Jake Erwin).

Launched in 1994, the Hot Club of Cowtown has grown to be the most globe-trotting, hardest-swinging Western swing trio on the planet, continuing to develop a unique sound inspired by the band’s namesakes: the hot jazz guitarist Django Reinhardt and violinist Stephane Grappelli of the Hot Club of France, and Bob Willis & the Texas Playboys.

And with the imminent release of What Makes Bob Holler on Proper American on February 1, the Austin-based band looks to a busy 2011. They start the year opening seven U.K. arena dates with Roxy Music, followed by a taping of NPR’s Mountain Stage in Charleston, W.V. in late January and an appearance at South by Southwest (SXSW) in March — before touring coast to coast in support of the album.

Bob Wills’ music — in this case the recordings of radio shows from 1946-47 called the Tiffany Transcriptions that are the fundamental inspiration for HCCT’s repertoire and style —offers a terrific platform for some ace musicianship in the form of Smith’s guitar, James’ fiddle and Erwin’s nimble bass. By spotlighting Wills’ early, pre-World War II catalogue, the disc happily matches obscure B-sides with some of Wills’ most popular work. Tunes like “Big Balls in Cowtown” and “Stay All Night” are numbers that “people always love when we play them live,” says James, “so it was a no-brainer to gather them into a record.” Other songs, like “Osage Stomp” and “The Devil Ain’t Lazy,” might not be as well known, but they are the type of tunes that originally attracted Smith and James to Wills’ music. “We’re playing what knocked us out about Western swing in the first place — the early fiery energy and jazzy improvisations,” says James.

By 1998 Smith and James had relocated to Austin, Texas, and released their debut, Swingin’ Stampede, on HighTone Records. Seven more albums over the next decade generated much critical acclaim and a devoted following. The New York Times’ Neil Strauss proclaimed the Hot Club “conscious always that above all else, the music is for dancing and an old-fashioned good time.” Craig Havighurst, in Nashville’s Tennessean, calls them “one of the most original groups on the Americana circuit, deserving of attention both live and on record” while the Sunday Times of London lauded HCCT as “the world’s most engaging Western Swing band — their shows are all about energy and joie de vivre . . . the devil-may-care style that combined the rigor of Jazz with the down-home sentiment of country and earthiness of the blues — it is as a live act that they have made their greatest impact.”

What Makes Bob Holler arrives on the heels of 2009’s Wishful Thinking, an Americana radio Top 100 album on which HCCT blended their love of hot jazz and Western swing with original songs, a Tom Waits cover and forays into more eclectic territory. The Austin Chronicle’s Jim Caliguiri called it “the Cowtowners at their peak” and David Eldridge, in the Washington Times, describes the disc as “one of the year’s most unexpected listening pleasures.”

What Makes Bob Holler is something of an 180-degree swing from Wishful Thinking’s more eccentric set list. It is the first time HCCT has focused on only one style for an entire album and they are proud enough of the results to express interest in doing more. “There are so many great songs that we didn’t get to,” says James. “We’re going to have to make a box set, eventually, but we’re just going to make it piecemeal,” adds Smith with a laugh.

While the new disc focuses on Bob Wills music, HCCT’s live show will remain a engaging mix of what the band does best — whatever moves them at the moment. James reveals that the band often plays without a set list. “We have faith in the system that is the band. This energy that we plug into and it takes us away.” Smith describes their shows as “like a rock ’n’ roll show” and “people pick up on the energy and the sincerity.”

Help protect Arctic wildlife

The Western Arctic Reserve may be less well-known than the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, but its wildlife populations are every bit as unique, spectacular and endangered.

Please take a minute to ask the Obama Administration to grant the strongest possible protection to the Western Arctic Reserve.

Nearly a century ago, the Western Arctic Reserve was set aside as a “National Petroleum Reserve”, but it remains one of our continent’s last, largely untouched tracts of wilderness and wildlife habitat.

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is developing a new area-wide plan for the Reserve, providing an ideal opportunity to safeguard its greatest natural treasures -- so-called “Special Areas” -- from destructive oil and gas development.

These Special Areas -- some established at the direction of Congress in the late 1970’s and others proposed by conservationists -- include the Colville River, Teshekpuk Lake, Utukok Uplands, Kasegaluk Lagoon, Dease Inlet, Peard Bay, Ikpikpuk River and the DeLong Mountains and Foothills Special Areas.

The vast network of coastal lagoons, deep lakes, sedge grass meadows and streams that make up the prized Teshekpuk Lake region provide the critical calving grounds for one of the largest caribou herds in Alaska, as well as summer habitat for polar bears. A staggering variety of birds also take refuge in these wetlands, some migrating from as far south as Antarctica.

Along the northwestern coast of the Western Arctic Reserve, up to 3,500 beluga whales gather in the Kasegaluk Lagoon every year to feed and bear their young.

The vast wilderness of the Reserve supports more than just Arctic wildlife. Inupiat Eskimos have subsisted here for thousands of years by following the caribou herds.

Many of these areas have not yet been disturbed, and this may be our last best chance to preserve them for the future. Please tell the BLM that it’s time to grant the Western Arctic Reserve the protection it deserves.

Thank you for taking action to protect our last Arctic wildlands and wildlife.

STS9 Announces Red Rocks and Western Dates

photos by Phil Emma- for the Grateful Web

STS9 (Sound Tribe Sector 9), who will be on tour this summer is support of their soon-to-be released studio album peaceblaster, announces the last leg of their travels which includes stops in Berkeley, CA,  Portland, OR and Seattle, WA.  The summer will culminate with two huge headlining shows at Red Rocks Amphitheatre.  Their western itinerary also offers two intimate, always popular "Fan Club" shows in San Francisco, CA and Boulder, CO.

A complete list of STS9's Western U.S. appearances is as follows:

August 15 The Independent San Francisco, CA (fan club show)
August 16 The Greek Theatre Berkeley, CA with two special guests TBA
August 22 McMenamin's Edgefield Portland, OR with special guests Blackalicious
August 23 Marymoor Amphitheatre Seattle, WA with special guests Blackalicious
September 04 Boulder Theatre Boulder, CO (fan club show)
September 05 Red Rocks Amphitheatre Morrison, CO with special guests Talib Kweli and others TBA
September 06 Red Rocks Amphitheatre Morrison, CO with special guests Ghostland Observatory and Bassnectar

Tickets for Fan Club shows are only available as a two/three day pass with purchase of the Greek/Red Rocks shows and are only available through STS9 ticketing.  Please visit www.sts9.com for more information.

All shows on-sale now at www.sts9.com and on-sale locally through TicketMaster at www.ticketmaster.com beginning May 3rd, 2008.

For the month of July, touring heavyweights STS9 and Umphrey's McGee team up for what promises to be one of the hardest-hitting tours of the summer. This co-bill will feature extended sets by both bands, and will stop in Midwest and east coast cities throughout the month of July.  Look, also, for very special late night sets by each band in select markets, including Philadelphia, Raleigh, Madison, Chicago, and NYC.

Sound Tribe Sector 9 and Umphrey's McGee tour stops in the following cities:

July 10 Willow Island Centre Madison WI
July 10 Barrymore Theatre  Madison, WI (STS9 AFTER PARTY)
July 11 Live on the Levee St. Louis MO  FREE SHOW!
July 12 Westfair Amphitheatre Omaha NE
July 15 Moonlite Gardens Cincinnati OH
July 16 Innsbrook Pavilion Glen Allen VA
July 17 Promowest Pavilion Columbus OH
July 18 White River Lawn Indianapolis IN
July 19 Charter One Pavilion Chicago IL
July 19 House of Blues Chicago IL (STS9 AFTER PARTY)
July 23 Higher Ground  Burlington VT (STS9 Only)
July 24 Roseland Ballroom New York NY
July 24 Blender at Gramercy New York NY (STS9 AFTER PARTY)
July 25 Festival Pier at Penn's Landing Philadelphia PA
July 25 Fillmore at TLA Philadelphia PA (UMPHREY'S AFTER PARTY)
July 26 Bank of America Pavilion Boston MA
July 27 Pier 6 Concert Pavilion Baltimore MD
July 30 House of Blues Myrtle Beach SC
July 31 Koka Booth Amphitheatre Cary NC
July 31 Lincoln Square Theatre  Raleigh NC (UMPHREY'S AFTER PARTY)
August 01-August 02 Masquerade Music Park Atlanta GA

Dubbed "...one of the country's most intriguing, innovative outfits around" by XLR8R Magazine, STS9 steps out this summer armed with their brand-new, highly anticipated studio album, peaceblaster. To be released in summer 2008 on their own label 1320 Records, the new album will feature never-before heard tracks that artfully mirror the intensity of STS9's live shows, while preserving the musical intricacies of past studio albums that critics and fans have touted.   peaceblaster comes nearly three years after their acclaimed 2005 releases , Artifact & Artifact: Perspectives , both of which were named in iTunes list of top albums of the year.

After a flurry of industry attention, STS9 retreated from the limelight to do what they love most:  play music. On the touring front, STS9 reached number 29 on Pollstar Magazine's "PULSE Charts" of the country's top touring artists. The band has shared the stage with a diverse range of acts including Jurassic 5, Tortoise, Digable Planets, RJD2, De La Soul, The Brazilian Girls, Prefuse 73, John Butler Trio, Blackalicious, G. Love & Special Sauce, Saul Williams, Soulive, Cut Chemist, Xavier Rudd and many others, and has played such festivals as Austin City Limits Festival, Lollapalooza, Bonnaroo, Winter Music Conference, and Vegoose Festival.  Recently, the band sold out a 4 night headlining run at Atlanta's Tabernacle, and a 2 night run at Denver's Fillmore Auditorium.

Help Block Dirty Fuels in Western Wildlands

Oil Shale- for the Grateful Web

The Bush administration wants to sacrifice some of the wildest regions of Colorado, Utah and Wyoming to produce fuel from two of the most polluting sources: oil shale and tar sands.

This proposed development - spanning an area of more than two million acres of wildlife habitat and outstanding recreation areas across three states - could pollute air and water, jeopardize human health and dramatically worsen global warming.

Please go to http://www.savebiogems.org/yellowstone/takeaction and tell the Bush administration to protect these sensitive wild lands for future generations and promote cleaner sources of energy instead.

Oil shale is rock that produces oil when heated to extreme temperatures. Tar sands contain extremely heavy oil mixed with sand and clay. Tar sands development in Canada has displaced wildlife, created toxic waste sites that go on for miles and generated three times the amount of global warming pollution per barrel produced as conventional fuel.

We must act now to shield our own western wild lands from this nightmare scenario. Oil shale and tar sands development could release dangerous toxic elements such as arsenic, selenium, and boron into the Colorado River watershed - a vital source of drinking water for local communities.

This area is also home to mule deer, elk, mountain lions, black bears, bald eagles and great horned owls and offers exceptional outdoor recreation opportunities.

Go to http://www.savebiogems.org/yellowstone/takeaction and tell the Bush administration to put the brakes on dirty oil shale and tar sands development in America's West.

Thank you for helping to save our last western wildlife habitats from destructive development.