AUK’s Chain Gang: Hot Club of Cowtown “Pennies from Heaven”

The last Chain Gang featured Mark Lanegan’s version of Dylan’s `Man in the Long Black Coat’. As ever, Dylan provides us with those allusive, resonating lyrics. Is the man of the title referring to death, depression or the forthcoming apocalypse? Whatever the answer, it does seem the weather is at the least inclement, and it is likely it’s raining.

Which takes us neatly to Hot Club of Cowtown’s cover of ‘Pennies from Heaven’. The band marry the swinging virtuosity of Django Reinhart and Stephan Grappelli’s Hot Club de France with an Americana twist. Anyone who has seen them live can testify to the energy of their uptempo numbers with Jake Erwin’s stomping double bass driving the band and venue along. It seems like Elana James can convey any emotion in the thesaurus with the fiddle and Whit Smith’s playing has effortless musicality.

This is a gentle treatment of a Tin Pan Alley classic that allows the band to find the soul of the song. The band appropriately slow the piece down and allow the lyrics to speak for themselves. Written in 1936 during the Great Depression by Arthur Johnson and Johnny Burke, it retains its ache and poignancy; a dream of opening clouds providing the simple metallic answer to poverty and pain.

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