Nashville-based singer-guitarist Carolyn Martin is a die-hard tradition bearer, one dedicated to country music's wild little cousin, Western swing. While the jazz-informed style has largely fallen from favor in mainstream circles, Martin, who appears Thursday at Burbank's Viva Cantina, is a favorite among an avid, steadily growing cult of Western swing aficionados. Most of these can be found here in California and, naturally, Texas, the state that launched the sound and, not so coincidentally, produced Martin herself.
"I was born and raised in Abilene, Texas, lived there until I was about 21," Martin said. "I was always a horse person, and my mom and dad had Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald and Rosemary Clooney records, I'd listen to those when I was in the house and when I went out to the stable, I heard country music.
"Radio formats weren't so strict then so you'd hear Bob Wills, a new country hit, a folk song, a pop tune and that background was perfect for me because Western swing incorporates so many different styles — and that's what really pushes my buttons. It has everything country, pop, polka and the African-American influence of jazz, blues, and it has that good beat, that dance beat. I love it."