Places like Nashville, Austin and Bakersfield have long been part of the lexicon of country music, but for many years the Pacific Northwest has been quietly carving out its own scene. Anyone who cares to do a little digging will find a slew of serious country (and alt-country) bands dispersed throughout Oregon, Washington and British Columbia. Is there a Pacific Northwest sound? That part is hard to say, but Jenny Don’t and the Spurs may be the closest thing to it. Led by the charmingly badass Jenny Don’t, this Portland-based band has been building a regional following with their own amalgamation of country and rockabilly sounds that are simultaneously faithful to tradition and fresh as hell. Case in point is their new album Fire on the Ridge.
The album kicks off like the crack of a rifle with the title track, loaded with desert twang, plenty of reverb, and blistering surf rock-meets-cowboy guitar solos. This kind of guitar interplay – helped by the gunslinger of a player Christopher March – is what the Spurs do best and there are plenty more examples throughout the album. “California Cowboy” slows things down with more twang and a shuffling doo wop sound that showcases Jenny’s carefree vocals, while “Be The Only One” is a straightforward rock and roller bursting with explosive energy. “Restless Moon” serves up oodles of pedal steel guitar with playful vocals in a classic country style that almost feels like light-hearted western swing. “Foolish Lies” keeps the classic country sound flowing complete with Jenny’s half-yodeling and quick-picked guitar weaving around the vocals before suddenly fading out in a tizzy of vocals. “Train Ticket” is a wild rockabilly tune that finds some of the most fast-paced guitar playing and singing on the record, reminding us of how fast this band can play. Other highlights on the album include the infectious swooner “She’s Not The One,” the cowpunk stomper “Trouble On My Mind,” and the sprawling Spaghetti Western tune “Queen of the Desert” that finds Jenny Don’t riding off into the sunset like Marty Robbins with a haunting and hard-charging onslaught of twangy guitars.
Fire on the Ridge is yet another fine installment in the catalogue of Jenny Don’t and the Spurs, offering up further proof that some of the finest country music being made these days comes from the Pacific Northwest. They also sum up the sound of the region in the way they spin classic country, honky tonk, rockabilly, surf rock and cowpunk into one rollicking mix of a good time. What makes Fire on the Ridge so damn fun is the level of enthusiasm the band brings to each song, as if they were a bunch of grizzled rockers who suddenly discovered country music and just can’t get enough of it.
Photo credit: Micheal Picking