Zoe Muth, ‘World of Strangers’ (Signature Sounds)
Five years ago, Seattle native Zoe Muth was a local preschool teacher playing bars and open-mic nights trying to pay to get her debut album produced.
Muth’s gift for songwriting and her captivating, smoky voice eventually earned her the nickname “Seattle’s Emmylou Harris,” but her latest album, “World of Strangers,” out Tuesday, finds Muth having just relocated to Austin, Texas.
You might think moving to Texas would allow more traditional country sounds to creep into Muth’s music, but “World of Strangers” delights by adopting a distinct singer-songwriter vibe. Songs like the delicate folk-rock of “Annabelle” and resigned regret of “April Fool” (an excellent Ronnie Lane cover) give new life to familiar sad-sack tales, thanks to Muth’s distinct voice and the conviction of her delivery.
However, it’s “Mama Needs a Margarita” — the most “country” song on the album — that leaves the lasting impression. It’s not sadness but loneliness in her voice as she sings, “Mama needs a margarita/A slow song and two strong arms to lead her.”
Fans looking for more honky-tonk might be disappointed, but they would be foolish to miss out on Muth’s most mature and interesting album yet.
Other new releases
Neil Young, “A Letter Home” (Reprise/Wea)
Sharon Van Etten, “Are We There” (Jagjaguwar)
Newsboys, “Restart” (Sparrow)