A couple weeks ago one of my favorite tweets of the year got posted by Chris Stelloh, who makes up the Yuma Wray half of this duo. He said, and I’m paraphrasing here, “Please stop referring to us as a country band. We are a rock band.” I found it funny and accurate, as well as something that needed to be said. By referring to the group as a country act, music writers and twitter enthusiasts are immediately alienating more than half of the audience that may have otherwise given them a chance. It also needed to be said because, at first glance, Miss Shevaughn & Yuma Wray does kind of sound like a country band.
It’s not like they sound similar to Rascall Flatts or Brooks and Dunn, but they don’t go out of their way to hide that there are country influences. I’d say they’re more like The Refreshments, who were most definitely a rock band but played cowboy songs with a south of the border twist. On the first song off of We’re From Here, “Go Hang,” there’s a potent twang in the vocals of Erin Frisby (the Miss Shevaughn half). It doesn’t mean the music is bad, quite the contrary. It fits the song perfectly and more importantly it is completely sincere-no affectation.
Not too long into the record we get a taste of some of that rock music that was promised to us. There’s a great dynamic at play where most of the rocking comes on tunes that are sung by Yuma Wray while the slower, folk-leaning tunes are sung by Miss Shevaughn.
The most electric song, or at least the one that I dig the most, is the seventh track, “Lost My Way.” It’s introduced with a slow guitar riff and Miss Shevaughn’s wailing voice. Yuma Wray takes over from there and what we get is a six minute masters course in changing tempos, guitar efficacy, and the use of wordless vocals as effective instrumentation. Oddly, this song reminds me of something Foo Fighters would have put out (and it doesn’t get much more rocking than Foo Fighters).
For the first time, maybe ever, I actually agree with the song they chose to make their first single for the record, “The River Made Me Do It.” This one has a little bit of everything that Miss Shevaughn & Yuma Wray like to do, and it’s a great piece to put on and say “If you like this then you’ll like everything else we do.” It’s also the strongest song on the album lyrically. I’m not sure how their songwriting process works, but Miss Shevaughn sings it with the conviction of its author.
“When I looked into his eyes I fell right in, and I’m a thousand miles gone. A thousand miles gone, a thousand miles gone from where I began. Down in the basin I went and saw the old woman with the idle eye. She gave me a gold coin to keep me from the law and two silver coins to carry me home.”
The thing I like best about Miss Shevaughn & Yuma Wray is their authenticity. They don’t make any attempts to be something they’re not. When they say they play American music, they’re not just playing to our crazy nationalism. They mean they play music that couldn’t come from anywhere else. After spending a long time traversing the nation in their Honda Element, I think they have a better idea of what America is than most of us. Their blend of country, folk, rock, and blues is a thing of beauty, and I think they should be applauded for making the music they love.
The absolute jewel of We’re From Here comes in the form of a ballad called “Morning Is Breaking.” It’s got Connie Francis written all over it, and that makes it all the better. “Did you ever feel so lonesome you wanna pull the shades? And you pray for the sweet dark night time to carry you away carry you away?” Miss Shevaughn’s voice shows a great range here. Often within the same line she hits something very low and very high. There’s also a great little guitar solo reminiscent of Gary Moore’s more somber tunes.
Miss Shevaughn & Yuma Wray will be here in Chicago on Labor Day, September 3rd at Martyr’s. The album technically comes out a week later at their official release show in Washington, DC at Black Cat, but I hear they may have some advance copies available. I’ll be seeing them for sure, as I’ve missed the last three opportunities to catch them live. They also have shows currently set up for Johnson City, TN and a few shows throughout the Carolinas. Try to make it out and hear what real musicians sound like.