The Northern California country scene is a small, tight-knit group of individuals, and in the past five years, locals Miss Lonely Hearts have been among its biggest boosters.
Now on the cusp of releasing their fourth album, Lost Highway, they’ve not only expanded their own audience, but have also worked hard to bring in touring country acts from outside the state. Not the big, polished country radio bands, but the ones putting out real, raw country.
“Current modern country is so abysmal. It’s closer to Janet Jackson than it is to Alan Jackson,” says frontman Wyatt Hesemeyer. “In Oregon and Washington, there’s more reception for country music, but California is pretty dry. We’ve been doing our best to make events where people can see that country music is fun and worth going out to.”
Miss Lonely Hearts’ latest record clearly demonstrates both their love for traditional, honky-tonk-influenced country, and their unique take on the music. Their first three records focused on original music, but this one is all covers, as they wanted to document the classics they’ve been playing at shows since their formation. That includes songs by Merle Travis, Johnny Cash, George Jones, and even a countrified version of Judas Priest’s “Breaking The Law.”
They don’t just play these songs straight up, but give the music, like their own original country tunes, a darker tone.
“We’ve really tried to bring out a lot of the darkness of these old songs,” Hesemeyer says.
INFO: 9 p.m. Friday, May 27. Catalyst, 1011 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz. $12/adv, $15/door. 429-4135