Featured Music: Wednesday, August 29, 2002
Lost Country
9:30pm, Sat at 6th Street Grill, 2736 W 6th St, FW. $5. 817-338-9300.
A D V E R T I S E M E N T
A D V E R T I S E M E N T
Finding Their Roots

Lost Country travels all over the music map to arrive at someplace like honkytonk.

By KEN SHIMAMOTO

In the late 1970s, when Jim Colegrove was fronting that Fort Worth jump blues/R&B/rockabilly institution, the Juke Jumpers, I used to dig the fact that, unlike most white blues singers, Colegrove didn’t try to sing like either a black person (which he clearly is not) or Paul Butterfield (with whom Colegrove actually played during his days as a Woodstock session man).

Colegrove’s vocalismo always reminded me of a cross between Richard Manuel (speaking of Woodstock) and the Band’s Rick Danko, and I used to think of the late Manuel as a sort of Canadian George Jones. Imagine my surprise, then, when I learned that Colegrove is now performing with an outfit called Lost Country, and this time — as the name implies — the musical inspiration is drawn from that other stream of American “roots music”: honkytonk and western swing.

The band was created when Colegrove and steel guitarist David McMillan started recording some classic country covers back in 1998. Lost Country became a band with the addition of Jim’s wife Susan Colegrove on vocals and pianist Jeff Gutcheon. Gutcheon and Colegrove share a history dating back to ’60s Greenwich Village and ’70s Woodstock, when they were bandmates in country-rock bands the Great Speckled Bird and Hungry Chuck. (Hungry Chuck’s 1972 album has the distinction of having been re-released five times in Japan, and if licensing arrangements can be made, a few tracks might be released along with some new material on Colegrove’s Cool Groove label.)

Gutcheon’s a journeyman musician whose résumé includes stints with artists as diverse as Jay & the Americans (their 1969 single “Walkin’ in the Rain”), folksinger Steve Goodman, Willie Nelson (his Shotgun Willie album), Maria Muldaur, Gladys Knight (her hit “You’re the Best Thing that Ever Happened to Me”), and Ringo Starr. He also wrote arrangements for Ain’t Misbehavin’, the successful Broadway musical based on the music of Fats Waller.

Lost Country quickly expanded its repertoire from covers to original material, mostly written by Colegrove or Gutcheon. “The idea,” said Colegrove, “was to move from a ‘roots’ start into something that was original, kind of like the Juke Jumpers did. We’d start in a traditional manner and develop a sort of ‘niche’ market and then expand it, but we’ve moved along a little faster than I’d imagined.”

The debut Lost Country disc, Broken People, was completed in 2000 and released on Cool Groove in April 2001. The songs feature wryly humorous lyrics dealing with contemporary subject matter, including gun control (“Gunplay”), lotteries (“Powerball”), lust (“I Lied to You”), and the evils of television (the new lyrics to the hymn “Daniel Prayed”). While not exactly nostalgic, many of the lyrics deal with changes in the world and in the way people live. You could almost imagine these folks performing on NPR’s Prairie Home Companion, and that’s not meant as a slam. Colegrove jokingly uses the term “industrial resistance music” to describe Lost Country’s sound.

Broken People’s most obvious strength is the band’s vocal blend (there are currently five singers), and several tunes are decorated by gorgeous Gutcheon vocal arrangements. Also not to be missed are Colegrove’s lovely “It’s Not My Fault” (somebody puh-leeze send this song to Ray Charles) and the sprightly “Pistol Boogie.” (Is the line “Hold it John, I can’t get my pistol out” too un-PC for radio? Discuss amongst yourselves.) The only non-snazz aspect of the record is a slightly studio-sterile sound, the result of the multi-instrumental Colegrove’s having to handle bass and drum duties on all the tracks.

That’s been remedied on the band’s new release, Down On the Borderline. With the additions of bassist John Allen and drummer Steve Springer, the record has a more organic sound, with Colegrove soloing more on guitar to complement McMillan’s singing steel. Susan Colegrove takes a nice solo turn on Kitty Well’s “Searching,” but the album’s finest moment is the closer, Gutcheon’s heartfelt “Friends.”

The material is more diverse than on Broken People, ranging from hardcore honky-tonk (“The Voice That Answered” and “What’s In It For Me?”) to barroom balladry (“The Trail I Always Leave Behind”) to Mose Allison-ish blues (“Slow Death”) and boogie-woogie (“Saying Goodbye To You”). “It’s just natural evolution,” said Colegrove. “The name of our band having the word ‘country’ in it does not mean we’re strictly a country band or a country-rock band. We don’t want to be typed that way, because we do too many other kinds of music.”

After 40-plus years working as a performing musician, including nearly 30 in this area, Colegrove is somewhat wary of what he refers to as “the syndrome of playing gigs in Fort Worth.” He explained: “[Gigs] aren’t so easy to find, unless you want to play for nothing. The price of an amplifier has gone up, the price of a guitar has gone up, the price of a guitar string has gone up, and yet the pay for a performer is the same as it was 20 years ago. I just find that remarkable in a city the size of Fort Worth, which seems to be doing very well.”



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