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Left Lane: Zoe Muth, Renee Wahl

Two indie stocking stuffers you might have missed

December 16, 2011
By RICH GIBSON , Times Leader

Before we bid adieu and say good riddance to 2011, here's a pair of LL recommended CDs we managed to misplace but were pleased to rediscover in the (St. Nick) of time.

A pair of singer/songwriters who released top shelf records during the year. And both of whom should make their presence felt in 2012.

RENEE WAHL'S bio may be all over the map but her songwriting ability is instantly impressive.

Wahl gathered some of Nashville's finest players, entered the studio, and departed with "Cumberland Moonshine," an adept collection of 12 songs and a record most certainly worth seeking out.

After serving in the Air Force, Wahl wisely opted to pursue a musical career while her husband served in Afghanistan.

With out the steady income and benefits military life provides, Wahl, instead, entered the unpredictable indie music world and settled in Music City.

She's probably regarded an alternative country artist, though there are frequent elements of straight rock in a number of tunes she either wrote or co-wrote with partner Roger Prescott.

All 12 songs on Cumberland Moonshine clock in under four minutes but each more than stands on its own merit.

Wahl is totally comfortable mixing and matching styles, from the record's dynamite opening track "On Something New" to the rock-a-billy twang of "Heartbreak Thing."

In between, she goes for the jugular on the radio-friendly "Keeping You For Mine" and explores a bummed relationship on "Roses Are Blue."

Along for the ride is Marty Stuart's lead guitarist Kenny Vaughan who shares licks with both Prescott and Pat Bergeson.

The venerable Fats Kaplin contributes mandolin and pedal steel with Bryan Owings on percussion and Charles Treadway (organ) and Charlie Chadwick (stand-up bass) as supporting players.

Wahl is playing a free online Friday show on Knoxville, Tennessee's WDVX-FM Blue Plate Special. To listen, visit the station's website at

FROM Seattle, Zoe Muth grew up in the 80s, raised on the classic rock sounds of Dylan, Springsteen, Buddy Holly and the Beatles.

"I wrote songs when I was five years old, but nobody understood me" Muth discloses, discussing "Starlight Hotel," one of the year's standout indie releases featuring Muth and her band, the Lost High Rollers.

"Somehow, the country sound just lends itself to the way I feel, the stories I want to tell."

Muth does so with a unique perspective on 'Starlight,' a 10-track project featuring nine originals and one co-write.

"I have always been who out of fear or a need for security, tried to keep a full-time job to pay the bills, so I traveled in my mind down the roads of Woody Guthrie, Leadbelly, and the Carter Family, weaving elements of history and traditional country and blues into my music and lyrics."

Muth's music takes you down a two-lane highway ("Let's Just Be Friends For Tonight," "Harvest Moon Blues") where characters emerge from anywhere but mainstream Americana.

"I know for some people (they) work, but I hate computers and don't really have good social skills," Muth describes. "That is part of why I have tried so hard in the past few years to really make this work - to make a record and promote it, even if it means playing Los Angeles to five people."

Muth's band includes Dave Harmonson (guitar, steel, dobro); Ethan Lawton (mandolin); Mike McDermott (bass); Greg Nies (drums); and Billy Joe Huels (trumpet).

"I never figured anyone would like my stuff," Muth related. "So it's pretty cool I've been able to play shows with James McMurtry, Fred Eaglesmith, Dave Alvin, the Gourds and others. I never thought I'd be playing the No Depression Festival or (Seattle's) Bumbershoot either, so let's just see what happens next."

IN two weeks, the Lane returns with our annual Top 10 list of the year's standout CDs....

Gibson may be reached at



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