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West Valley Highway

Marysville – 2006 (Self-released)

Reviewed by Andy Turner

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CDs by West Valley Highway

Featuring several former members of Seattle's popular band The Souvenirs, West Valley Highway has put out a fine debut. The band is less retro than The Souvenirs, but certainly combines older influences such as Merle Haggard and Buck Owens with its sweet and melodic country rock sound. Drummer Boots Kutz and acoustic guitarist Terry Bratsch share singing duties, with each possessing capable, engaging voices that effectively capture the often bittersweet lyrics or pair for irresistible harmonies.

Banjo adds just the right touch to "I'm That Man," guaranteed to make itself at home in your head in no time. The title track is a funny ode to a town that has seen better days where 'everything has burned down that was ever worth a damn." The band plays tribute to Owens on the toe-tapping 'Back to Bakersfield," a clever tune that incorporates various Buck titles into the lyrics. 'A Lifetime Ago" shows off guitarist Mo's hot licks and 'She's the Kind" is a perfect honky tonk weeper, featuring Micah Hulscher on piano.

At 10 songs and 34 minutes, "Marysville" doesn't waste a second: top notch from beginning to end.