Zoe Muth and the Lost High Rollers
Saltburn Community Theatre, Teesside
Sunday 23rd January
I don’t know if this was meant to be a ‘secret gig’ or not but it certainly felt that way; especially as Saltburn by the Sea is normally off the beaten track as far as Roots music is concerned.
First up was Tyneside’s premier Western Swing outfit, Shipcote and Friends, who gently eased us into the evening with half an hour of delightful songs, interspersed with Mr. Shipcote’s humorous anecdotes.
Guitar virtuoso Brian Younger lit up the charming Theatre with some astonishing playing as he complemented Shippy’s velvet tones on songs like Crazy Country Fool and Threw it Away.
This set the scene nicely for the most exciting new singer in New Country; Zoe Muth and the Lost High Rollers.
Zoe’s debut album in 2010 won her a myriad of influential admirers including Bob Harris and the hierarchy at No Depression Towers when it was released, and her recent follow up has only confirmed that our plaudits were 100% correct.
But; can she recreate the magic on stage? Hell yes!
Ms. Muth has surrounded herself with a really fine set of musicians who supply backing of the very highest quality and compliment her breathtaking voice with easy going cool.
Dave Harmonson on pedal-steel and lead guitar was as good as I've heard on these instruments for years, and the rhythm section of Greg Nies and Mike McDermott kept time with the efficiency of a Swiss watch but the star of the show was the Eric Clapton of the mandolin - Mr. Ethan Lawton who made this traditional folk instrument rooooccckkk!
Zoe herself is no mean guitarist but it's her voice, sweet Country, that seduces you; and tonight she made me go weak at the knees more than once.
As this was Ms. Muth's first ever visit to Europe and only the second night of the short tour she did appear a touch nervous during the first few songs; but when she heard the raucous cheers that greeted each song she visibly relaxed; so much so that when she got a chorus wrong she actually giggled before carrying on as if we'd not noticed. We did....and loved her all the more for it.
If you are already a fan tonight’s versions of You Only Believe Me When I’m Lying and Such True Love from the first album were absolutely fabulous and New Mexico and Before the Night Is Gone from the latest album set the hairs on the back of my neck upright. But the highlight of the evening was If I Can’t Trust You With a Quarter (How Can I Trust You With My Heart) which was just…..fantastic and should be a shoe-in for Song of the Year at the CMA’s if it wasn’t so damn ‘Country like Country ought to be!’
If you are not already a fan, (shame on you!) Zoe Muth will remind you of early Nanci Griffith, Mary Chapin-Carpenter, Laura Cantrell and even Emmylou Harris but she is very much her own woman with her own distinctive voice and style.
Tonight’s sold out crowd; who came from far and wide were enthralled from the first song to the final encore 90 minutes later and I swear every single attendee left with either a CD or a signed poster and a big smile on their faces after witnessing a Star in the making.