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Album Review

I Have Heard the Future
Of Country Music
And It Is the Past

ZOE MUTH
& THE LOST HIGH ROLLERS

Forget Nashville. The best country in the country right now is coming out of Seattle and, specifically, out of the mouth of Zoe Muth and the instruments of The Lost High Rollers. It didn't take me more than one verse and one chorus of what should be a Top Ten country hit to hear it, either. You Only Believe Me When I'm Lying is just the kind of track I used to hear when I walked past the bars and taverns of my old hometown in the fifties and sixties and I cannot deny that it tugged at the old heartstrings having the pedal steel and banjo and then the pure tone of Muth's voice send me back. Not since those days and, later, Michael Dinner's classic album The Great Pretender has country music stopped me cold. Not like this.

Country & Western used to floor me on a regular basis but I had no idea it was Country & Western at the time. They were hits. If it got airplay, it was a hit and I was inundated with everyone from Hank Williams and Cowboy Copas and T. Texas Tyler to Lynn Anderson and Loretta Lynn and Brenda Lee and pretty much loved it all. Ferlin Husky and Faron Young were every bit as important as Chuck Berry and Elvis to me and when rock started to really dominate the airwaves, I could hear the difference, but Country & Western was always lurking in the background and would slip a tune in here and there. Think Johnny Cash was country back then? To my ears he was as rock as the next guy.

As rock as those country guys got, though, there was something that set them apart from everyone else. There was that sixties and fifties feel that went beyond the instrumentation and lyrics. That is what Muth and her crew bring back. That feel. And they do it as impressively as the original Country & Western artists, trust me.

Want proof? Sample every track. I defy you to listen to I Used To Call My Heart a Home or Such True Love or Not You without hearing the roots. They are Country & Western gold, from the pickin' to the singin' and beyond. Jesus, just the lyrics freak me out. Toss in a slightly Americana edge on tunes like The Last Bus and Middle of Nowhere and The Running Kind and you have a balance which rings the bell.

How good is it? Zoe Muth & The Lost High Rollers is my pick for Country Album of the Year (and I don't care that it was released last year--- I just heard it) because there might possibly be one as good from here on out but I guarantee there will be none better. It is so good, in fact, it is solidly in the running for my choice for Album of the Year, period.

They give no production credit on the jacket. Engineering credit goes to one David Dressel and I don't know if he is responsible for anything more than turning the knobs, but if he is he's a genius. Each track is handled with kid gloves, from the understated and sparse Never Be Fooled Again to the beautifully layered You Only Believe Me When I'm Lying, and each each time I hear one, I am awe-struck. Every music critic is a closet producer and God knows I have qualified many a critique with expertise-after-the-fact, but this gem borders on perfection and leaves me speechless (or in this case, typeless).

In fact, and I don't usually do this, before making up your mind to head to her MySpace page to check out the tunes, I leave you with links to critiques of Zoe and band written by people probably more knowledgeable than myself. Follow them. Read what they have to say, then multiply it times ten. Listen to the samples. If you love country music--- real country music--- and you take the time, you are in for a treat.

CMT Blog (Craig Shelburne)
Sound On the Sound (Brady)
Seattle Weekly (Sara Brickner)
KEXP (Leigh Bezezekoff)
The Real Mr. Heartache (Ian Hughes)

Oh--- The Lost High Rollers? One of the best country bands I've ever heard.

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