Redwood Coast Music Festival 2019 Featured Guest Artist
Elana James grew up in Prairie Village, Kansas and began playing Suzuki violin at age four. Her mother is a professional violinist who used to play in the Kansas City Symphony. In junior high and high school James took every opportunity to play her violin, from busking on the streets of Westport in Kansas City on weekends to playing in every orchestra, quartet and chamber group she could find. As it happened, it took James almost twenty years to decide between the violin and the fiddle, but in her mid-twenties, after much soul searching, James found her calling in American roots music and has never looked back.
James is a founding member, along with Whit Smith, of the hot jazz and Western swing trio Hot Club of Cowtown. The Hot Club of Cowtown was formed after Whit and Elana met through an ad Elana placed in the music section of the Village Voice in 1994. They moved to Austin in 1998, joined up with bassist Jake Erwin in 2000, and all three have been touring and recording as the Hot Club of Cowtown ever since.
During a brief Hot Club of Cowtown hiatus in 2005, James became the first dedicated female instrumentalist in Bob Dylan’s touring band in more than thirty years, then toured with him in 2006 as the opening act for his United States summer tour. She released her first solo album (Elana James) in 2007 and a second solo album (Black Beauty) in 2015. In addition to tours and recording with Bob Dylan, James has also recorded with Willie Nelson, Ray Price, Merle Haggard and others, and has written, produced and arranged, along with band mate Whit Smith, nine studio albums with the Hot Club of Cowtown. In 2004 she was inducted, with her Hot Club band mates, into the Texas Western Swing Hall of Fame.
In 2015 James was named Western Swing Female of the Year at the Ameripolitan Music Awards, held in Austin, Texas, and the Hot Club of Cowtown was awarded Western Swing Group of the Year. Both were nominated in 2014 as well, the first year the Ameripolitan Music awards came into being.
Elana has been a featured guest–both by herself and with the Hot Club of Cowtown–on A Prairie Home Companion and has toured and performed as a solo artist in the UK and Australia. With the Hot Club of Cowtown she has performed at the Grand Ol’ Opry, the Women in Jazz series at Jazz at Lincoln Center, DelFest, Pickin’ in the Pines, the Glastonbury Festival in England, the Fuji Rock Festival in Japan, Australia’s Byron Bay Blues and Roots Festival, the Rochester Jazz Festival, Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival, the Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion, the Kennedy Center, the Cambridge Folk Festival, Stagecoach Festival, and at concert halls and venues from Mallorca to Molokai.
James had the honor of representing the US State Department as a Musical Ambassador throughout Armenia, Azerbaijan, and the Republic of Georgia, playing everything from Texas hoedowns to American Songbook standards. In July 2011, the US State Department again invited Elana and the Hot Club of Cowtown to perform in the Sultanate of Oman at the Khareef Festival in the town of Salalah, and in Oman’s capital city, Muscat.
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