Review of Oasis Motel by Root Jack


Root Jack, Oasis Motel (2014, self released)

What happens in Vegas doesn’t always stay in Vegas. Sometimes it sticks with you for the rest of your life.

Kris Stuart — leader of the rootsy Portland-based riff-rock trio Root Jack — once thought it would be a good idea to move to Las Vegas. But as he likes to tell the folks attending his live shows these days, “It turned out to be a terrible idea.”

Still, there are lessons to learn and inspiration to draw from the deep, dark side of The City of Sin. On Oasis Motel, Root Jack’s recently released sophomore CD, Stuart brilliantly mines the more troubling aspects of life in Las Vegas to deliver a set of songs full of caveats, crushed dreams, seedy characters and enough good humor to form a collection that equals or eclipses the band’s sparkling debut, In The Pines.

“Whatcha gonna do when the money’s gone?” Stuart asks in “The Rent,” a slow-burner from the new disc that features Root Jack at its whiskey-soaked best. Drummer Chris Hutton and bassist Kevin Cowan lay down a gooey groove that moves and sticks like molasses, and Hutton’s soaring harmony vocal in the chorus helps drive home that musical question like a dagger to the ribs. Stuart gives the knife an extra twist with a greasy slide guitar solo that displays his Southern rock background and prowess.

Listen to “The Rent”  The Rent by Root Jack

Stuart’s move to, brief stay and subsequent exit from Las Vegas are all at the heart of Oasis Motel, which kicks off with “Dead Man’s Hand,” a cock-sure musical parable that should be instantly recognizable to fans of the band’s first CD. “If pleasure and treasure ain’t all that you hold dear/Turn that thing around right now and just head on out of here.”

On the instrumental “The Strip,” the band lets the music do the talking with the help of a sinister organ solo by ace guest Edward Connell. Add in more killer slide work from Stuart and you have a quick, minute-fifty of Root Jack at their most funky.

Of course, you can take the boy out of the South but you can’t remove those Southern roots. On “Rise Again,” Stuart opines that Mother Nature always will have the last word even when unnatural disasters such as the Deepwater Horizon catastrophe threaten a people’s heritage and way of life. “Rise Again” ranks right up there with the best songs in the Root Jack catalog so far.

Listen to “Rise Again” Rise Again by Root Jack

The message on Oasis Motel is pretty clear: greed and selfishness, they’ll only get you so far. They’ll leave you jealous, broke and alone. But “when you give all of yourself, you bring the heaven and chase the hell,” Stuart sings in “Think To Much.” (sic)

The CD wraps with a stunning interpretation of “Oooh Las Vegas,” the Gram Parsons-Rick Grech-penned classic that’s been covered many times but never quite like this. It’s the perfect end piece for a terrific CD that gives the listener a peek into the dark soul of Las Vegas while providing a thrilling, top-down joyride through the Valley of Fire.

That Much Further West Podcast

Catch Root Jack live this Friday, Feb. 28, when they perform at Secret Society in Portland as part of The Low Bones album release party, and learn more about Root Jack at their website.

Episode #16 featuring Joel Roth of The Low Bones


Joel Roth, left, and Paul Brainard, live in The Helm

Episode #16 w/Joel Roth of The Low Bones

We have the whole crew in The Helm for this week’s episode featuring Joel Roth of The Low Bones in advance of the band’s record release show this Friday night at Secret Society here in Portland.

Joel brought along his pal, the great Paul Brainard, for some accompaniment on a few live performances in The Helm. Both songs are from the new Low Bones album Waiting For The Dawn, which we’ve been featuring on the podcast these past few weeks. Joel also shared some thoughts about the record, the inspiration for the music and what he has planned for the big show on Friday night. Suffice it to say you locals won’t want to miss this one. We’ll be there in force and are excited to share the interview and terrific performances with you.

The playlist for this week’s episode leans heavily on artists who will be playing the third-annual Wildwood MusicFest & Campout this coming July. The recently announced lineup has our crew geeking out with anticipation of what’s sure to be one of if not the biggest event of the year on the That Much Further West Podcast calendar.

We also are blessed this week to share some exclusive music from our friends Spirit Lake, who just wrapped recording on their second album, as well as great new music from Cutbank, Hearts of Oak, Root Jack and local country faves Brush Prairie.

So without further adieu, here’s this week’s playlist. Enjoy!

Graveyard Shift, Uncle Tupelo
Call It What You Will, Larry and His Flask
We Don’t Get Along, The Grizzled Mighty
Cold Dark Woods, Banjo Song #1, Hillstomp
As Lost As You Are, Mike Coykendall
The Road (Live in The Helm), The Low Bones
Interview with Joel Roth of The Low Bones
Waiting For The Dawn (Live In The Helm), The Low Bones
Nevada County Line, Austin Lucas
Got Goin’, Otis Heat
Drinkin’, Holly Williams
Mine Diamond, Lone Madrone
Santa Ana Winds, Spirit Lake
Used To It Now, Hearts Of Oak
Tennessee Whiskey, Brush Prairie
Molly Rose, Willy Tea Taylor
We Can’t Talk (About Those Things), Cutbank
Help Me Settle Down, CW Ayon
Wanderin’ Heart, The Haunted Windchimes
Smile, Deadstring Brothers
Shoulda Oughta, Tim Barry
Old Roger, Graham Lindsey
Think To Much, Root Jack
The Travelin’ Kind, Tom VandenAvond
El Troubadour, Bastard Sons of Johnny Cash

Episode #15 featuring Bradford Loomis and Beth Whitney


Beth Whitney and Bradford Loomis

Episode #15 w/Bradford Loomis and Beth Whitney

Back in the saddle after a wild, wonderful President’s Day weekend. This week’s podcast  features a terrific performance and interview with Bradford Loomis and Beth Whitney live in The Helm with host Eric Kotila.

Beth and Bradford were in Portland last week recording their new record, “The Banner Days,” the product of a successful crowd-funding campaign that has them crackling with creative electricity and confidence. You can hear it in their voices as they share some songs, talk about their influences and tell the backstory of how two great solo artists and friends came together to write and record the new record.

We couldn’t help but kickoff this week’s show with another tune from the awesome new Lydia Loveless LP, which hits the streets today. We also have new music from The Low Bones, whose captain, Joel Roth, will be our guest on next week’s show in advance of their big CD release show at Secret Society here in Portland.

We added in a bunch of cool stuff from some of our favorite troubadours and tons of local music including cuts from Jake Ray and the Cowdogs, Copper & Coal, Mike D., McDougall, The Delines, Truckstop Darlin’ and Countryside Ride.

Here’s this week’s playlist. Hope you enjoy the show!

Wine Lips, Lydia Loveless
Our Own Way, The Low Bones
Roadworn and Weary, Supersuckers
Waltz, Trains, Wires and Wood, Soda Gardocki
Bound To Ride, Jayke Orvis and the Broken Band
Busted Knuckles, Tom VandenAvond
The Mountain, Lucero
Oh Henry, The Civil Wars
Interview with Bradford Loomis and Beth Whitney
Come Dance With Me (Live from The Helm), Bradford Loomis and Beth Whitney
My Beloved (Live from The Helm), Bradford Loomis and Beth Whitney
Come To Jesus, Mindy Smith
Troubadour, Arliss Nancy
Waiting Around To Die, The Be Good Tanyas
Anita, Jake Ray & The Cowdogs
Long Story Short, Copper & Coal
Swingset Assassin, Two Cow Garage
I Love The Rain, Michael Dean Damron & Thee Loyal Bastards
Gates Of Victory, McDougall
I Won’t Slip Up, The Delines
Trailer Of Love, Countryside Ride
Bluegrass State, Truckstop Darlin’
Detlef Schrempf (Live Acoustic), Band Of Horses
Gin, Smoke, Lies, Turnpike Troubadours
Hurricane, Possessed By Paul James


Episode #14 featuring Freddy Trujillo


Freddy Trujillo

Episode #14 with Freddy Trujillo

Another week, another snow storm . . .

We’re back from The Helm this week with Eric and Philly bringing you Episode #14 from our spectacularly comfortable digs in Portland, OR. Mike had to miss this week’s taping when real life (aka ‘work’) slapped him with a 20-hour shift on recording day. Grudgingly, we soldiered on without him, even as Mother Nature was bringing forth a massive weather system that forced the cancellation of countless club shows over the weekend.

This week’s episode features the music of local rocker Freddy Trujillo, whose band Trujillo will be performing at our That Much Further West Podcast Showcase this Thursday at Alberta Street Pub. Freddy’s been a fixture on the local Americana scene as a bass player and solo artist, and he’s getting ready to launch a push for his new record, Amexica.

To help make our schedules jive, Freddy invited Phil into his family home for a remote interview that includes performances of a pair of songs, “Little Birds” and “Adios California,” offering a taste of the multilingual music that Freddy writes and performs with Trujillo. He talks about the inspiration for the new record as well as his role as sideman for some of Portland’s most established acts (Fernando, Richmond Fontaine) and his longtime working relationship with veteran producer Luther Russell. He also talks a bit about his participation in the new Richmond Fontaine spinoff project, The Delines. Great stuff.

The podcast also features still-to-be released songs from Old 97’s and Lydia Loveless, brand-new music from Scott H Biram and Root Jack, and a tune from local boys The Resolectrics, who join Trujillo on the bill at this week’s showcase.

Later in the show, things take a decided “country” turn, helped in no small part from the featured Trio Bravo. This week’s three-song special (including a tune by Whitey Morgan & the 78s) is brought to you by Tim Hawk, owner of The Landmark Saloon, Portland’s coolest little honky tonk. Thanks, Tim, for helping us keep it country.

We also have a song from recent podcast guest Sarah Gwen, a Fernando tune from the Deer Lodge George Jones Tribute and a show-closer from Seattle’s The Swearengens. So lots and lots of good music this week.

We look forward to seeing you Portlanders Thursday night at the Alberta Street Pub. Until then, enjoy the podcast. Here’s the songlist:

Longer Than You’ve Been Alive, Old 97’s
Gotta Get To Heaven, Scott H Biram
Non Typical, Chuck Ragan
Head, Lydia Loveless
Shallow Grave, Root Jack
Money Back, The Resolectrics
Interview and performances with Freddy Trujillo
Freddy Fender, Trujillo
I Need You To Tell Me Who I Am, John Moreland
Restless, Rumbleseat
City Lights, American Aquarium

Trio Bravo, three songs selected by Tim Hawk, owner of The Landmark Saloon
Memories Cost A Lot, Whitey Morgan & The 78s
You Just Can’t See Him From The Road, Chris LeDoux
Leave The Lonely Alone, James Head

Misunderstanding, Sarah Gwen
Wings Of A Dove, Fernando
Whiskey & You, Jason Eady
Tonight You’ll Be Breaking, The Swearengens

Episode #13 featuring Fredd Luongo of The Swearengens


Fredd Luongo

Episode #13 with Fredd Luongo of The Swearengens

This week, Eric and Mike are back in all their vulgar, politically incorrect glory as we bring you another fun show from The Helm. Philly missed the taping because he had band practice, but he did catch up with Fredd Luongo of The Swearengens, a great Seattle alt-country band named — fittingly for this episode — after the foul-mouthed saloon keeper and general all-around bad guy played by actor Ian McShane in the HBO drama Deadwood.

The soft-spoken, kindly Mr. Luongo (not at all like Al Swearengen) was nice enough to sit down for an interview before his band’s terrific show Friday night at The Landmark Saloon in Portland. Among other things, he talked about his influences from the late-90s Americana scene and also some of the kindred spirits he’s connected with in Seattle. Later in the podcast, we share a Swearengens song and also hear from a couple of those key groundbreaking bands of the Seattle alt-country scene, Chuckanut Drive and North Twin.

You’ll also hear some wonderful females voices on the show, including recent breakthrough star Holly Williams and the great Lucinda Williams, as well as a pair of showings by Portland’s own Annalisa Tornfeldt: one with her band Black Prairie (on the heartbreaking and haunting Richard Manuel) and another with her fantastic female trio Calico Rose.

We also get a bit folky on this episode with a tune by Utah Phillips and a tribute to a giant in American music, the recently departed Pete Seeger. We’ll always remember Mr. Seeger not just for his profound musical impact, but also the never-wavering political courage he displayed in bringing his songs of hope and legend to audiences around the world.

Here’s this week’s songlist. Enjoy the show!

That Much Further West (Show theme), Lucero
Ain’t Nothing Free, Root Jack
Ballad Of The Opening Band, Jeff Tweedy
Railroads, Holly Williams
Wrong Way To Run, Willy Tea Taylor
Interview with Fredd Luongo of The Swearengens
Timebomb, Old 97’s
Long Winter’s Feeling, Freddy Trujillo
Never Gonna Change, Drive-By Truckers
By The Time I Get To Phoenix, Glen Campbell
If You Come Around Here, The Swearengens
Richard Manuel, Black Prairie
Jesse James, Pete Seeger with Ramblin’ Jack Elliott and Ed McCurdy
Pineola, Lucinda Williams
Portland, Drag The River
The Green Rolling Hills of West Virginia, Utah Phillips
Thunderstorms And Neon Signs, Wayne Hancock
Hangin’ Up, Chuckanut Drive
Trouble, Have Gun, Will Travel
Write Home (Live At Al’s Den), Calico Rose
Oh Me Oh My, Deadstring Brothers
Drunk Dial, Whiskey Shivers
Hurricane, Possessed By Paul James
Bar Scar, The Whipsaws
Just To See, The Low Bones
Whiskey For Breakfast, Adam Lee and the Dead Horse Sound Company
Thinking California, The James Low Western Front
Darken My Door, Cory Branan
Wreck, North Twin