Back in 2007, Elana James — fiddler, songwriter, and vocalist for the always innovative and swinging Hot Club of Cowtown — released a self-titled solo album. Come February 2015, James makes her solo return with a stunning new effort, Black Beauty, that showcases her vocal range, brilliant fiddling and canny ability to cast an enchanting musical spell by weaving words and music under and around one another.
Black Beauty collects both originals and James’ versions of some of her favorite songs, by artists ranging from Dylan and Meri Wilson to Woody Guthrie and The Grateful Dead.
Her version of the Robert Hunter and Jerry Garcia gem, “Ripple,” which opens with a poignant fiddle run that bobs under and around an aching steel guitar, captures the original mystical character of the tune.
James’ haunting version of “Ripple” never loses its power to evoke the power of hoped-for community and the genuine joy that encourages us to sing along with a paean to a lost time and hope.