Zoe Muth and Co. Make Good Despite Rain

Anne Pride-Wilt, Staff Writer

Not many Obies trudged through the downpour to hear Zoe Muth and the Lost High Rollers country-inspired jams at the ’Sco last Thursday night, but the few who did were well rewarded; it was a great show. Muth and Co. took the stage with a fairly long set, playing from 10:40 p.m. until after midnight and hardly seeming to notice the relatively empty venue. Their mellow, conteplative country-blues tunes were low-key enough to seem appropriate to the small but appreciative audience, giving the whole affair the feeling of an intimate private concert.

The blue jean-clad quartet, equipped with three guitars and a drum set — not to mention Muth’s charming Patsy Cline-style vocals — kept the evening moving with a healthy mix of covers and original material on traditional country subjects which ran the gamut from bar fights to wayward lovers. In a subversion of country music expectations, however, Muth does not hail from Texas, or Tennessee, or any of the other traditional incubators of the genre. On the contrary, Muth grew up in a Seattle suburb listening to Buddy Holly and the Beatles, giving her music a popular edge that endears her not only to established country fans but also to those who would typically plug their ears at the first hint of a country twang.

Muth’s stage presence, however, was not confined to the music itself. She peppered the set with snippets of charming, self-effacing stage banter that revealed a sweet shyness not obvious in her confident musical performance. She noted her wariness of the black lights shining onto the stage — she didn’t like them, she said, because they made her self-conscious about a missing tooth. It was this and other similar humanizing qualities that made the performance an interactive experience rather than a one-sided event. One had the sense that Muth was not reciting canned one-liners intended to charm the audience, but rather engaging in a room-wide conversation. If an audience member had responded to one of her blithe comments, it would have seemed natural for Muth to put the set on hold in order to carry on a conversation.

Fortunately, the rainy night did not wholly restrict Muth and the Lost High Rollers’ audience to those present when they began the set. More than once, people walking by Wilder Hall were lured out of the drizzle by Muth’s crooning or a particularly cool guitar solo, to the point that there was a steady, if slow, trickle of people into the ’Sco over the course of the night. A substantial portion of the audience was made up of locals who earned almost as much admiration from the rest of the crowd as Muth did with their self-assured partner dancing. If nothing else, it was in keeping with the Lost High Rollers old fashioned aesthetic, contributing to the pervasive sense of camaraderie that accompanied the band’s set.

Country music has never been everybody’s cup of tea. Many would-be music enthusiasts refuse to entertain the genre at all. But Muth’s winning combination of the traditional country vocals and subject matter, and the new echoes of outside influences hearkening to Muth’s Seattle upbringing is enough to seduce even the diehard genre elitist. Capable musicianship and undeniable charm is a combination that can’t be denied — one that Zoe Muth and her Lost High Rollers have in spades — even if the meteorological odds are unfavorable.

During a break between songs as the show was beginning to wind down, Muth introduced a song, co-written with a close friend, by mentioning that the band was “stuck in an age where you can still get a song in a jukebox for a quarter.” As a statement of the band’s thesis, Muth’s phrase works very nicely; a Muth and the Lost High Rollers may indeed be stuck in the past, but so long as the song playing on the jukebox is by Muth and her band, nobody’s complaining.