Indeed, I have written about Muth many times since, from a review of their first appearance at Cottage Grove's Axe & Fiddle (read that here) to a return appearance the next summer (read that here) to various reviews of the first two albums (Zoe Muth & The Lost High Rollers) and (Starlight Hotel) and the following EP (Old Gold). It seems every time she steps onto a stage or into a studio, I tug at the reins, wanting to write more. Sometimes I think she reads my mind because she just handed me another album for just that purpose.
There is something about Zoe's voice which is salve to my soul. I had pretty much given up on Country music by the time she came along. Nashville had turned glitz and glamor and the music so formula you could make baby food with it. The "stars" acted the same, looked the same, wore the same clothes and, shudder, played the game of Hollywood to the point of nausea. They still do.
Not Zoe, though. She came out of Seattle performing her songs in her way and never thought about formulae. Sure, she fits well in the Country category, but this is a Country with which I am comfortable. I knew it from the first notes of You Only Believe Me When I'm Lying, track one, record one. Zoe is, to me, someone very special and very unique. It is in her songwriting and in her soul, but more than anything it is in her voice.
That voice is centerpiece of World of Strangers. Surrounded by more production than her previous albums, her voice cuts through the slick so well that you don't even notice. Nine originals and one song written by Ronnie Lane (April Fool) make this a smooth ride through real country and not that of Nashville. No trenchcoats and pleather cowboy hats for her. Simple songs written for and from the heart.
She doesn't do it alone, either. She has a band, and producer George Reiff filled the studio nicely on various tracks with superb vocalists and musicians including Jenn Miori and Beth Chrisman (The Carper Family), Bruce Robison, and Brandy Zdan.
Is this her best album yet? I can't say because everything she has released is top shelf. Chances are that people who buy the new album are going to want to backtrack and the people who have earlier albums will want this one too. They are that good, as is she.
Note: The music in the videos posted in this review besides Mama Needs a Margarita are not from World of Strangers, but they will give you an idea of what that album holds. They are true Zoe Muth without embellishment.
Frank O. Gutch Jr.
(Frank Gutch Jr. writes and has written for numerous magazines and websites, presently including this blog, his own website and the prestigious Don't Believe A Word I Say site put together by musician and music pundit Bob Segarini, out of Toronto. He specializes in the Indies, having fought hand-to-hand combat with major record labels for decades (talk about zombies). He believes music should be the core of the music business, though business it mostly be, and denies the accepted reality in the stead of the artistic one. Seldom does he receive pay for articles and/or reviews and believes that there is no place for negatives in a world in which one cannot keep up with the positives. He is, in a sense, a lost soul in a sea of music, drowning, but drowning gratefully.)