The home of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum was bustling on Thursday night with a special small hall performance by 2015 inductee Green Day, a multi-media concert from Sufjan Stevens, and a big tribute to Ohio musical artists featuring Joe Vitale along with several local singer/songwriters in the Music Box concert hall. But that didn’t stop a contingent of loyal fans and virgin newbies to pack the main floor supper club for The Hot Club of Cowtown show. The band, which normally has been playing a jazz club when traveling through Cleveland, were elated by the welcome and the beautiful space which has windows that look out onto the Cuyahoga River and downtown skyline.
The talented trio of the ever smiling Elana James on violin, Whit Smith playing a vintage 1946 Gibson L-5 guitar, and Jake Erwin slappin’ the upright bass sang vocal harmonies and blending backing vocals through a twenty-four song set. Now celebrating over fifteen years along with a dozen record releases to their credit, the band blended Texas swing with jazz, gypsy, Tin Pan Alley, and traditional pop comparable to the era of Les Paul and Mary Ford. Though the band hasn’t released a new album since Rendezvous in Rhythm (2103), Smith released On the Nature of Strings consisting of jazz guitar instrumentals in December while James offered up more of an Ameripolitan album of favorites titled Black Beauty in February.
James and Smith traded lead vocals between songs with the exception of instrumentals “Ragtime Annie”, “Diga Diga Doo”, and the bad girl gypsy song “Fuli Tschai”. Highlights included the opening number “Dev’ Lish Mary”, I’m an Old Cow Hand”, the Bob Willis swing of “A Little Longer”, and the closing number “Sally Goodin’” sung by Smith. Not to be outdone, James was darling performing “Exactly Like You”, the romantic ballad “Deed I Do”, “Forget Me Nots”, and the fast paced waltz “Reunion (Livin’ Your Dream)”. The band really showed their playing skills during “It Stops With Me” and beautiful three part harmony on “She’s Killing Me” both led by Smith on vocals. Unfortunately, the night wasn’t long enough to hear anything from Jame’s solo effort except for “High Upon The Mountain”.
Afterwards, the band members were foreshadowed by Eva James, the adorable Corgi who travels with Mama Elana, in the lobby while meeting audience members and signing autographs