Zoe Muth. World Of Strangers.

Blabber’n’Smoke reviewed Seattle’s Zoe Muth’s debut album back in 2010 likening her and her band, The Lost High Rollers, to Emmylou Harris and the Hot Band. Since then Muth has steadily toured and built up her reputation releasing her second album, Starlight Hotel in 2011. Three years on we find Muth relocated from Seattle to the sunnier climes of Austin Texas leaving the High Rollers somewhat lost (bar drummer Greg Nies who lugged his kit along for the album) and while there’s no great departure from the two previous discs Muth sounds as if she’s settled well and made some fine new friends in the process.

She opens the album with the sparkling Little Piece Of History which details her relocation setting off for Texas on New Year’s Day. Up tempo with rippling mandolin and piano it captures the sense of a new start with echoes of The Byrds in the free flowing energy expressed in the song. Mama Needs A Margarita finds Muth firmly ensconced in the Lone Star State with piano and pedal steel well to the fore on a song that Doug Sahm would have loved. While Muth doesn’t have the ballsy swagger of Sahm Make Me Change My Mind shows that she can rip it up when required as the pedal steel swells, fiddles saw and Nies pile drives the drums. Too Shiny is another turbo charged rocker with some fine Telecaster twang thrown in which recalls Lone Justice but the best moments here are on the ballads which allow Muth’s splendid effortless voice free rein.

Somebody I Know is a glorious song that builds in intensity from the lengthy instrumental intro before Muth waltzes in sounding like a younger Lucinda Williams with her sultry presence. Bruce Robison joins in on harmonies towards the end as the song takes flight. Muth is joined on vocals by Brandy Zdane (Twilight Hotel) for the sumptuous Waltz Of The Wayward Wind, a standout here as the guitars and pedal steel ebb and flow while the barroom piano tinkles forlornly, a classic song. She closes the album with another belter, the stately What Did You Come Back Here For which recalls prime Jackson Browne as piano and organ twin up providing a swirling backdrop for Muth’s evocative vocals.

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