Zoe Muth taps into country's soul
Written by COLE CHRISTENSEN Sentinel Staff Writer   
Friday, 02 September 2011 10:09
Zoe Muth (Photo provided)
Zoe Muth’s recent musical success might be best described as a matter of coincidence. Less than a year ago she maintained full-time employment as a preschool teacher, playing music on the side and only venturing out of the Seattle area for a few shows on the West Coast.
But good, original music knows no geographical boundaries or day jobs as the popularity of Muth’s debut 2008 album steadily drove demand for live performances across the country.
Word of mouth fan support, the backing of a niche Americana record label and a fresh album release this spring have quickly taken this singer-songwriter and her band, The Lost Highrollers, from part-time Seattle players to a full-time touring outfit.
Muth will perform on the festival's Main Stage Saturday at 3:15 p.m. the move to the Acoustic Stage for a 5 p.m. set.
“I think of myself as an artist, but I have always had a full time job,” Muth said in a recent telephone interview. “I have never been one of those people that can just tour around and do the solo singer-songwriter thing. It took a lot of work to know that I was actually good enough that people would come out to see us.”
There is a timeless quality to Muth’s lyrics and music, which evokes vibes of both classic country and contemporary Americana. The songs are simple, direct and packed with emotionally-charged references to social issues and hard living that are subtle and balanced.
Take, for instance, the lyrics from the track “Before the Night is Gone,” off of her 2011 album “Starlight Hotel”:
“The gas station on the state line where we saw the posted signs.
The government was saying they were sorry and trying to apologize.
About the poison in the sand and the lies they told again and again.
They thought if they gave us enough money that we would all understand.”
“When I was a teenager I was really interested in learning about the Great Depression, and I am still into that,” she said.
Of course the fact that a young woman from the Pacific Northwest is writing, performing and recording music with a classic country sound is a hot topic for music publications just getting wind of her distinctive sound. In many ways that sound is as much a product of Muth’s band as it is her songwriting and plaintive vocal expression, especially the influence of pedal steel player Dave Harmonson.
“I think part of the reason we sound like country music is because I ended up hooking up with Dave who plays pedal steel and who has a huge encyclopedic knowledge of country music,” she said. “Almost anything he plays on has a more traditional country sound.”
Add in the Ethan Lawton’s mandolin fills, the steady bass of Mike McDermott and Greg Nies’ soft touch on drums and you have Zoe Muth and the Lost Highrollers, a band creating some outstanding original music that will strike a chord for fans of all genres.

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