Reading that Zoe Muth has been called “Seattle’s Emmylou” immediately puts you in mind of all the New Dylans who have come along. It’s the kind of high praise that’s not easily lived up to. But one listen to World of Strangers — on which you can certainly hear echoes of Harris in Muth’s weary vocals — clues you in really fast to the fact that Muth is the real deal.
Moving from Seattle, Washington, to Austin, Texas, Muth enlisted help from folks like Martie Maguire (Dixie Chicks), Bruce Robison, and Brad Rice (Son Volt, Keith Urban) to make a record that retains plenty of classic country twang but also branches out into touches of soulful cello (“Annabelle”), Gram Parsons-style cosmic Americana (“Waltz of the Wayward Wind”), and even an unexpected cover of Ronnie Lane’s “April Fool”. It’s simply a wonderful album, full of sharp songwriting (“Mama Needs a Margarita”, for example, teems with lines that could apply to the mother just as much as the child she’s trying to put to bed) that shouldn’t be overlooked as one of 2014’s best country releases.