For the woman who is one of the cornerstones of Hot Club of Cowtown to jump off the deep end of moody bohemia and musical exploration is music to the ears of Elana James’ many followers. Right on time to boot. She is one of the youngest members inducted into the Texas Western Swing Hall of Fame. By taking that talent and putting it into the mix on songs by the Grateful Dead, Bob Dylan (whose band James was a member of in 2005), the Hollies and Woody Guthrie, as well as her appealing originals, she becomes a much-needed detour on the Americana highway. It would be a mistake to expect any less from someone who went from Prairie Village, Kansas to graduating cum laude with a degree in Comparative Religion from Barnard College.
The way that Elana James balances her rural background with big city smarts for a rich and surprising sound is the real beauty of Black Beauty. Both influences are pervasive throughout each song, but their blend turns everything into a personal glimpse of what assimilation can be. There’s even a song that features a word-for-word final letter home to his wife from US Staff Sgt. Juan Campos, who died in Iraq in 2007. There hasn’t been anything quite like this before, and in putting it to music Elana James has shown the world a glimpse into eternal love. Forever.