Album Review: Zoe Muth & The Lost High Rollers — Old Gold
2011’s Starlight Hotel established Zoe Muth as one of the best under-the-radar country artists out there, with a plaintive voice that wrapped around well-written songs like “Let’s Just Be Friends for Tonight” and “If I Can’t Trust You with a Quarter (How Can I Trust You with My Heart).” With her new EP Old Gold (out July 24), the Seattle singer-songwriter puts down her pen and covers a handful of songs from artists who’ve influenced her over the years, including John Prine and Anna McGarrigle.
Though cover records are hit and miss, this one’s the former by far. The biggest surprise on the album is the cover of Dock Boggs’ oldtimey banjo-driven “Country Blues,” which, in the hands of Muth – who, in the liner notes, names the song as “one of the first and most influential to my early education in rural American music” — and her band the Lost High Rollers, becomes a midtempo, jukebox-friendly country tune. “I’ve Been Deceived,” written by Bill Cantrell and Quinton Claunch, stays rather close to Rockabilly Hall of Famer Charlie Feathers’ version, with the addition of solid mandolin picking from Lost High Roller Ethan Lawton.
An understated version of “Get It While You Can,” the Jerry Ragovoy/Mort Shuman song, lacks the soul of Howard Tate and Janis Joplin’s stellar recordings, but serves as a fine closer. The album’s one original track, “Walking the Line,” sounds as though it could have been pulled from one of Bonnie Owens’ late ‘60s LPs, with lyrics like “I wore my heart right on my sleeve/I wanted you for my lovin’ man/That’s how it was going to be/I was hopin’ I wouldn’t have to play the fool, but now I see/I’m walking the line while you walk all over me” delivered with heart-wrenching sincerity.
Simultaneously warm and world weary, Old Gold is the feel-bad album of the summer. But with Muth, feeling bad sounds so damn good.
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