November 27, 2005

Soundtrack Review: Four Dead Batteries

Four Dead Batteries is a rather entertaining independent comedy that I reviewed recently. I'm back to take a look at what is a rather exceptional collection collection of western swing and jazz music. The music is supplied by The Hot Club of Cowtown and Whit Smith's Hot Jazz Caravan. A pair of bands with an rather tight connection.

I first experienced The Hot Club of Cowtown in August of 2004. They were the opening act for the Willie Nelson/Bob Dylan tour of minor league baseball stadiums. The performance was electrifying and charismatic, it was unlike anything I had heard before. It was a delightful concoction of country and jazz, performed by a trio of highly talented musicians. Since then, I had not been able to track down any of their music locally, and then this soundtrack landed on my doorstep. I was looking forward to listening to it after enjoying what I heard in the film.

Two musicians appear on the entire album. It seems that The Hot Club of Cowtown broke up last year and guitarist Whit Smith founded Whit Smith's Hot Jazz Caravan with Cowtown bass player Jake Erwin. This soundtrack features the first recordings of the newer group. All of the music supplied here is fantastic.

The album primarily features Cowtown tracks, with the Caravan sprinkled liberally throughout. This is a wonderful soundtrack to put on and sit back with some friends and a bottle of wine. It lays down a jazzy groove that isn't overpowering, yet doesn't fall into repetitive elevator music. All of the musicians demonstrate just who good they are at their respective instruments, all coming together to create an aural tapestry that is simply captivating.

There is a split between instrumental tracks and those with vocal accompaniment. Whichever route they take, it is still a great ride. The collection transcends the film that spawned the soundtrack, meaning that you don't have to be a fan of the film, or even know about it, in order to get a lot out of the music presented here.

The songs are a mix of traditional jazz, covers with new arrangements, and originals. I cannot go through and pick out favorites as this is an album that must be taken as a whole. Jazz inflected with western stylings is a wonderful sound. I cannot say how unique this is, but it is a new sound to me, and this metalhead is impressed.

Bottomline. The combination of acoustic guitar, standing bass, and violin on the Cowtown tracks, and the addition clarinet and saxophone on the Caravan tracks is music to my ears. It is upbeat, playful, and energetic. It is guaranteed to get you foot tapping, your head bobbing, and your spirit lifted.

Highly Recommended.


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