As perky and homespun as her songs, Western swing artist Carolyn Martin has been capturing a lot of attention from fans and fellow musicians over the last few years.
In 2008 and 2010, she won the Academy of Western Artists' Will Rogers Award for Female Western Swing Vocalist of the Year and this year, Martin was inducted into the Texas Western Swing Hall of Fame.
Her most recent effort, "Cookin' With Carolyn," was produced by Martin's husband, Dave Martin and self-released in February 2010.
Martin will be making her first appearance at the Coffee Gallery Backstage in Altadena on Thursday, where she promises to have the audience humming along.
The Nashville resident performs music in the style of classic western swing from the '30s-'50s, with influences from the big band swing era as well. She plays cover tunes and original material, which she is most inspired to write during long drives in the car.
"When I'm in the car, especially on an hour's long trip, I have time to just think," she said. "I turn off the radio and it's quiet and I wait until I am inspired by something that catches my ear. I have a notebook where I'll jot down ideas. Gosh, if I finished all the ideas in my notebook, I'd have hundreds of songs."
Just one listen to her tunes and you will realize Martin's strongest suit is her way with words. She loves playing with language, yet keeping her lyrics simple so they can be easily understood.
people to be able to relate to my songs, but also I like that little twinkle-in-the-eye wink thing," Martin said. "Western swing is so amiable to that because it is meant to be fun music. It was created as a distraction in the '30s. Those were hard times, so (this music) was created for people to go out on Saturday night and dance and forget about their troubles for a little while."
Perhaps that is part of the reason for the current resurgence of interest in the genre. Western swing and related bands are appearing more on the scene and their fans are the young crowd you would expect to see at a rock concert. Martin attributes part of this surge, as well as the music's survival over time, to its pure joy and how it makes people want to tap their feet and move.
"It's designed as dance music, and it naturally makes you feel better," she said. "It is infectious and it's absolutely as much fun or maybe more fun to play than it is to listen to.
"So much of it is improvisation on the spot. You say, `Steel player take solo' and the music just happens, it's not planned and that's when the magic happens for me.
"I couldn't tell you exactly what swing means, but you can feel it, and you know it when you hear it," Martin said.
The Coffee Gallery Backstage will be the first stop on a short tour of California for Martin, during which she will also spend some time visiting friends. The shows will feature Martin on guitar and her husband on acoustic bass and will include a repertoire of classic western swing, cowboy music and original material.
"It's going to be family- friendly fun music," she said of the concert. "We chose songs that lyrically, and musically, have integrity. Our mission is to spread the joy of swing music around.
"We try to have a lot of energy and I think it's something that's going to send people out the door smiling and humming a tune."