Zoe Muth & The Lost High Rollers - The Arches, Glasgow, Sat 21 Jan 2012
Accomplished musicianship but this work in progress lacks a certain intensity
The comparisons with country greats have been made in abundance – Iris DeMent, Emmylou Harris, Gillian Welch – but Zoe Muth is a singer-songwriter with unique talents. The voice is strong, the tunes engaging and the lyrics, which form bleak but compelling contemporary narratives, insightful. Mercifully they eschew most of the country music tropes, although the young Seattleite does have a tendency towards the maudlin.
Her first two albums have been deservedly well received and allowed her to pack in the day job as a schoolteacher in favour of schlepping around the globe with her excellent band, The Lost High Rollers. Live, however, there is a sense that Muth is still a work in progress, albeit a potentially very special one. Glasgow is the first stop of her UK tour, and, while it could just be jetlag, it feels a little flat and safe at times. She opens with the decidedly downbeat ‘Starlight Hotel’, from the album of the same name, but it’s still oddly subdued. ‘The Running Kind’, which sounds so fragile and heartbreaking on record, here lacks a certain intensity. Still, it’s all very accomplished and the musicianship impeccable. The Carter Family’s ‘My Dixie Darling’ is a well-judged change of pace and the Lucinda Williams-esque ‘You Only Believe Me When I’m Lying’ a highlight.