Review of Somewhere Else by Lydia Loveless


Lydia Loveless, Somewhere Else (2014, Bloodshot)

She was all dressed up and ready to be crowned alt-country’s queen-in-waiting, but a funny thing happened on the way home from the prom. Lydia Loveless rolled down the window, tossed the tiara, took a left turn and hit the throttle.

On her third full-length record, the 23-year-old Loveless says goodbye to the raging banjos and cowpunk shuffles that made it so easy to box her in as the future of alt-country. Somewhere Else is something very different — a radio-ready rock album that aligns the singer less with country blues songstress Lucinda Williams and more with a fellow Ohioan, rocker Chrissie Hynde.

Sure, many of those good ol’ country music themes (drinking, cheating, etc.) remain at the heart of Loveless’ songwriting, and she’s not afraid to cast herself in a bad light. On Somewhere Else, the singer is a drunk, a home-wrecker, an obsessive helplessly bent on self-destruction and destined to wind up alone. But she also knows her way around a song, with lyrics so direct and sexually frank it’s hard to miss the point — or not get caught up in the naughty fun.

Listen to “Really Want To See You” “Really Wanna See You” by Lydia Loveless

The album’s first track, “Really Want To See You,” announces not just its obsessive lyrical tone but also its direction as a straight-ahead rock record. The listener is greeted with screaming guitars, heavy drums and not a hint of the twang that was a hallmark of Loveless’ previous work.

On the poppier “Wine Lips,” Loveless shows off her talent for terrific word play. Early in the song when she sings, “Ain’t there somewhere where you and me can be alone/Honey, this isn’t a party if it’s chaperoned,” you already have a good idea of who you’re dealing with. This is an artist who isn’t afraid to say what she wants, and seems to be willing to do whatever it takes to get it.

Listen to “Wine Lips” “Wine Lips” by Lydia Loveless

Eventually, steel guitar winds it’s way into the mix as the songs start to sink from the heart to the gut and, eventually, the crotch. On the slow-burner “Hurts So Bad,” Loveless sings, “I swore I’d go to bed, but I must have it bad/’Cause I got up and I pushed every button your elevator had.” On the not-so-subtle “Head,” she sings, “The sooner I go to sleep, the sooner I can dream/Well, maybe if I get lucky tonight you’ll be there waiting, ready for me.”

Listen to “Head” “Head” by Lydia Loveless

As things slow down on the back half of the record, Loveless offers a glimpse at her more gentle side. But obsession, longing and desire for love remain constant themes throughout Somewhere Else, a record so well executed, straightforward and fun that it’s bound to elevate Ms. Loveless’ profile as an indie-rock comer and destined to be included on many lists of the 2014’s best.

That Much Further West Podcast

Lydia Loveless and her band will be performing live in Portland at Doug Fir Lounge on Wednesday, April 2. The Stubborn Lovers open the show. Visit for more information.



Review of Nothin’ But Blood by Scott H. Biram


Scott H. Biram, Nothin’ But Blood  (2014, Bloodshot Records)

I guess there is really no point in trying to describe the type of music played by Scott H. Biram. I have given his new album, Nothing But Blood, at least 20-plus spins in preparation to write this review and I pick up on something different every time. The “Dirty Old One Man Band” as Scott is called could just as easily be labeled the “Dirty Old One Man Musical Library” ranging from punk to blues to country to metal to gospel and straight-up, dirty rock & roll.

The new album starts with a mellow, introspective country picker, “Slow & Easy,” with lyrics that could also be dropped in to fit a more raucous, rocking framework, or with a bit of steel guitar could convey that oozy, alt-country feel.

Listen to “Slow & Easy” Slow & Easy [Explicit]

This song takes me back to a certain summer when I was a teenager and my stepfather Garry and I spent two weeks high up in the San Juan Mountains of southwestern Colorado. Garry was a scrap metal guy and we got a job tearing down some old logging equipment left behind many years prior. Long days were spent cutting and tearing apart this old, rusty metal and at night we would drive up to camp above the timberline, where we would turn on the AM radio and pick up stations of all genres from as far away as Mississippi, Oklahoma and California and closer stations in Colorado. The station waves would roll in and out as the car radio scanned past each station.

Those old familiar songs from all over the dial made the nights more comfortable and the thoughts of home slip away and get lost in the thin, mountain air.

Listen to “Never Comin’ Home” Never Comin’ Home

Nothing But Blood is a definite trip throughout its 14 tracks (11 plus three bonus) and a listener might feel as if their iPod is on shuffle. It delivers The Good, The Bad and The Ugly of Biram and his music. I reckon Scott is like the majority of true music fans whose tastes and influences are wide and ever evolving. I appreciate his willingness to push his boundaries and deliver new and different styles and material. I also enjoy that Nothin’ But Blood can be just as chaotic and jarring as his live performances, but also just as moving and exciting.

Every good performer and musician learns from their predecessors and contemporaries. With Nothing But Blood, Biram takes those lessons and twists them into the hot, sweaty joyride only he can deliver.

Listen to “Church Point Girls” Church Point Girls

Scott H. Biram is currently on tour with Larry and His Flask and The Whiskey Shivers and will be performing on Saturday, March 8 at the Hawthorne Theatre in Portland. For more information, check out and be sure to pick up his new album Nothing But Blood on Bloodshot Records.

That Much Further West Podcast

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.

Review of Ron Rogers and the Wailing Wind


Ron Rogers And The Wailing Wind (2013, Civil Defense;

Like any great bar band, Ron Rogers and The Wailing Wind are groove merchants. They never fail to deliver that special, sneaky musical something that gets toes tapping and backsides wiggling.

And on their new, self-titled CD, they prove equally adept at capturing the groove in the recording studio. Right from the start of the first song, “Hard Working Hands,” the band settles into that fluid place where rhythm, tempo and tone melt together and begin to seep into the listener’s bloodstream.

Credit Rogers — the Portland band’s lead vocalist and guitar player — for his ability to ingrain the groove in the varied, soul-soaked Americana music he writes. There’s a swampy, gravelly, back roads quality that runs throughout his work. It’s all over this new CD, just like it was on the band’s previous release, 2011’s stunning Country & Eastern (2011).

Four songs into the new disc, it’s hard not to get lost in the hypnotic groove and excellent, southern-fried storytelling that are the hallmarks of Rogers’ work. Just then, during the later moments of “Kid Stormy Weather,” the song takes a left turn down a dream-like path paved in tremolo and delay.

From there, the listener travels into a revival world of saints, sinners, preachers and anti-heroes, where salvation awaits the wanting but where Satan is always lurking around the corner, waiting for another shot at the soul.

While the songs feature enough curious characters and musical quirks to keep listeners on their toes, the band doesn’t stray much from its signature sound, with the pedal steel guitar and Rogers’ electric holding the spotlight. On “Rad Johnny,” Rogers and steel player Dave Grafe trade licks with playful ease. All the while, drummer Chris Bond and bassist Don Campbell hold down the groove with a smart, uncluttered approach.

Several of the songs on Ron Rogers And The Wailing Wind rank among Rogers’ best. Tunes like “When My Baby Gets Down,” “Haywire” and “Soul Salvation” are instantly recognizable after just one listen and demonstrate best how a great bar band operates: lay down the groove, load up the dance floor, then burn the place down.

— Phil Favorite
That Much Further West Podcast

Review of Drag The River


I’m not a music critic. I’m not a musician. I am just one lucky SOB who has been working in venues and with bands for better part of my adult life.

— Mike Lee
That Much Further West Podcast

Drag The River (2013, Last Chance Records)

I first head Drag The River in the summer of 2001. I was managing the Bluebird Theatre in Denver, Colorado and we were hosting a 30th birthday party for Luke Schmaltz (lead singer of the seminal Denver punk band, King Rat). The band tapped to play was Drag The River. I had not heard the band yet and judging by the cast of characters assembled on stage and in the crowd I was ready for a punk rock show. I mean, for Christ sake, I had seen every single member over the previous year in their separate punk bands.

I was too busy to notice the pedal steel sitting on stage. I suppose from the first note plucked I was definitely intrigued. I am not sure if it took a full song to be all in and wanting to leave my post at the bar and set up in front of the stage with a large glass of bourbon and a smile.  The show was epic. The party was an epic adventure with many stories still told to this day.

I bought the Hobo Demo’s cd the band had at the show and it was in heavy rotation over the next couple of months (or the past dozen years). Listening to that album made me feel like I had suddenly been given a road map following a lifetime of roads traveled listening to old country with my step dad and the punk rock I ingested later in life.

Here I sit over a dozen years later and once again I am wearing out the newest release from Drag The River. A 10 song, self-titled recording released on Last Chance Records. The EP is everything I have come to expect from a Drag The River record. The songs rock. They twang. They are punk. They are country. The lyrics will make you slam whiskey; hug a friend and drunk dial an ex in less than 30 minutes.

In my life, the punk rock heroes picked up acoustic guitars and slowed it down with charged songs about living, family, addiction, the road and so much more. The gentlemen in Drag The River (Jon Snodgrass and Chad Price) can hold their own with anybody in that group while bringing their own humor, stories and the ability to rip out a scorching rock tune with plenty of twang. They are steady. They are part of home base. I suspect 12 years from now I will find as much solace in this new EP, Drag The River as I do in the original recording.

Interested in learning more about Drag The River? Go to for show dates, merch and music information. They will be on tour this winter with Cory Branan.

The music can also be purchased at Last Chance Records

For more info about their other projects look up:

Jon Snodgrass: Armchair Martian / Jon Snodgrass / Scorpios

Chad Price: All / Chad Price

JJ Nobody: The Nobodys

Review of Copper & Coal


Copper & Coal (2013, self released)

The women of Copper & Coal present a striking vision on stage. With their beautifully detailed evening gowns and towering presence, they demand your attention even before the first note of music is played.

Their voices, though, prove even more arresting.

Check out “Kentucky Blue” ( from their new self-titled debut. A short line of steel guitar opens the ears to the signature sound of Leslie Beia and Carra Stasney harmonizing in a pitch-perfect union that recalls the best of old Nashville.

No auto-tune needed here, folks. These ladies can really belt it out, which they demonstrate throughout this 10-song collection produced by local country legend Caleb Klauder.

Having common roots growing up in their native state of Michigan, and a shared love of country music, the vocal duo came together at Beia’s regular Monday night gig at the Landmark Saloon in Portland. Almost instantly, they found they were on to something special and drew the attention of some of the finest local players — all standing at the ready to back them up.

Branching out, Beia and Stasney were determined to produce a recording to share with a growing audience. Klauder answered the call and along with engineer Jordan Leff helped create this collection of classic-style tunes that would have sounded great on country radio in the 1950s and every era since.

Copper & Coal also gave Stasney and Beia a chance to flex their formidable songwriting chops. The disc features just one cover song, Dolly Parton’s “Dagger Through The Heart,” which fits nicely among the nine others (included seven written by Stasney specifically for the project).

And they hit all the right classic-country notes with songs of longing, drinking, honky -tonking, heartbreak and cheating. Buoyed by terrific performances on fiddle (Luke Price), steel (Gary Newcomb, Russ Blake) and mandolin (Klauder), the music takes the listener back to a time when content mattered and talent trumped all.

An impressive debut, Copper & Coal is sure to draw in new fans to a classic stye of country music, and also bodes well for an act just starting to take off.

— Phil Favorite
That Much Further West Podcast