Lost Country’s Scattered

By Ken Shimamoto

Scattered is the fifth (!) shiny silver disc of rootsy Americana from Lost Country, the Fort Worth-based band led by Jim Colegrove, a veteran muso best known locally as co-leader (with blues-jazz guitar eminence / Record Town honcho / musical historian Sumter Bruton) of the Juke Jumpers -- whose 30th anniversary (!) reunion takes place at J&J’s Blues Bar on August 31st-September 1st – but who actually began his career in late-‘50s Ohio with Teddy & the Rough Riders, first-generation rockers who scored a regional hit with “Tomahawk” in 1960.

While the blues and rock ‘n’ roll of those earlier groups is part ‘n’ parcel of Lost Country’s musical mix, so is the country flavor that was the stock in trade of the Great Speckled Bird, an electrified band fronted by Canadian folkies Ian and Sylvia Tyson in which Jim played bass (watch the documentary Festival Express, an account of a travelin’ hipi rockfest ca. 1970, to see a younger Jim with a somewhat embarrassing haircut), and the urban expat’s resolute pastoralism that characterized the Woodstock music scene of the early ‘70s, where Colegrove and pianist Jeff Gutcheon landed after the Great Speckled Bird crashed and burned.

Like Woodstock stalwarts The Band (to whose doomed singer-pianist Richard Manuel Jim bears a more-than-passing vocal resemblance), Lost Country boasts four strong vocalists – in particular, Jim’s wife Susan Colegrove can summon the spirits of June Carter, Patsy Cline, and Wanda Jackson at will, and invests bassist Rob Caslin’s “Love Was In Your Kiss” with an aching Appalachian purity -- and four capable songwriters (Jim, Rob, Jeff Gutcheon, steel guitarist/Lost Country co-founder David McMillan). They’re an admirably self-contained unit, recording at Colegrove’s home studio, where he’s been honing his engineering chops on projects with blues-zydeco daddy James Hinkle (most recently on the eclectic bandleader’s sterling Blues Now, Jazz Later CD) and boho poet Wes Race (some spoken-word-‘n’-jazz sessions with Sumter Bruton that remain tantalizingly unreleased).

Highlights abound, from the crisply recorded bumpa-chicka of Rob Caslin’s “Hard Love,” a tune worthy of prison-album Johnny Cash, to R&B Stroll-meister Chuck Willis’ slow-drag “Love Struck,” recast here as a sprightly country shuffle. The Colegrove-penned “Your Number’s Up” sounds like the rockin’ side of latter-day Dylan, while the title track’s a heart-tugging ballad in the grand old style. “Keep Me and Never Go Broke” adds some Nawlins spice to the musical stew, and the Crescent City homage continues with the plaintive post-Katrina saga “I Ain’t Goin’ Back to New Orleans” that follows. “Let the Guitar Howl” tips its hat to Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere-era Neil Young and Crazy Horse with blistering exchanges between guitar and steel. The lyrics to Floyd Tillman’s once-topical C&W chestnut “This Cold War With You” might require some explanation to 20something listeners, but here, as elsewhere, Lost Country’s music speaks for itself.

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