The Washington Post
Friday, June 1, 2007
By Geoffrey Himes
Elana James “Elana James” Snarf
ELANA JAMES USED to be known as Elana Fremerman when she played and sang on the five albums released by her former trio, the Hot Club of Cowtown. When the band broke up at the end of 2004, the fiddler was quickly hired as a member of Bob Dylan’s band. The two tours with Dylan taught her the importance of writing new songs within an old tradition, and she has launched her solo career with a new name, a new crop of songs and a new album, “Elana James.”
The style of her music hasn’t changed that much. The Kansas-born, New York-trained, Austin-based musician still leans heavily on the gypsy swing of Django Reinhardt and the Texas swing of Bob Wills. What is new is the relaxed confidence she brings to both her fiddle solos and lead vocals. There’s no hint that she’s trying to overpower or impress the listener; she eases into phrases with an instinctive grasp of syncopation and an unhurried savoring of emotion.
She sings an obscure Dylan tune, “One More Night,” and a famous Duke Ellington number, “I Got It Bad (and That Ain’t Good),” and plays an instrumental duet with her Texas fiddle mentor Johnny Gimble on “Silver Bells.” But most striking are her own compositions, especially “Twenty-Four Hours a Day,” a finger-snapping kiss-off to an ex-lover, and “All the World and I,” a slow, hymnlike love song.