Friday night at Uncle Slayton's offered a welcome dose of traditional, rootsy country music with Lexington's Coralee and the Townies opening the show for Seattle's Zoe Muth and the Lost High Rollers.
The intimately-sized venue with hardwood floors and exposed brick walls is a cozy place to take in a show, and if you are early enough, you can snag one of the round bar tables with stools that line the walls. It's a great setting, in other words, for some classic honky-tonk music. Coralee is a performer who looks like she's really enjoying herself, flashing a high-voltage smile as she engages with her band, backing her up on steel guitar, keys, upright bass, and drums. The picking is good and so is her soulful, flexible voice, which can croon and break, or belt out a line with Janis Joplin-like intensity.
In contrast to Coralee's commanding presence, Zoe Muth takes the stage almost hesitantly, projecting a quiet vulnerability that works perfectly with her world-weary lyrics of romances gone wrong and dashed hopes. Playing a mix of songs from her critically acclaimed debut and the more recent Starlight Hotel, Muth and her band offered a few up-tempo numbers, but her strength is the slow, sad country ballad -- evoking the lonely horizons, long roads, and empty sidewalks in songs like "Before the Night is Gone" and "New Mexico." The clarity of her voice allows you to catch every haunting word, underlined by Dave Harmonson's fine pedal steel and Ethan Lawton's delicate mandolin. Even though Muth isn't a household name, she sounds as if she ought to be.