Fueled by whiskey, asphalt, AM gold, and several lifetimes of heartache, the Stubborn Lovers play country and rock ‘n’ roll songs that sound like forgotten classics. Imagine the Dixie Chicks jamming with Bruce Springsteen at a lonesome roadhouse: gorgeous three-part harmonies with weeping pedal steel over big beats and ringing guitars. Their EP Feathers and Bones was released in late 2015, and showcases the band’s evocative, rootsy sound across four songs, from the shimmering pop hooks of “So Jealous So Stupid” to the driving country thump of “Evermore”, from the soulful, soaring “Flaming June” to the moody and sinuous “Devil Take My Heart”. The warmth and exuberance of the music contrast with the record’s lyrical exploration of darker emotions: bitterness and anger over lost or unrequited love, gnawing jealousy, unnamed fear.
Though based in the indie rock mecca of Portland, Oregon, the sextet’s country pedigree is genuine: singer Mandy Allan hails from Hendersonville, Tennessee, where her grandfather delivered mail to the home of Johnny and June Carter Cash. Wife-and-husband duo Toni and Todd Melton (acoustic guitar/vocals and electric guitar, respectively) are transplants from the heart of Kentucky’s hill country.
Multi-instrumentalist Steve Lipsey, who plays dobro and banjo in addition to pedal steel, is originally from New York, where his musical career began alongside classmate Donald Roeser, a.k.a. Buck Dharma, who went on to found Blue Oyster Cult. Bassist and vocalist Jenny Taylor grew up along the storied highways of New Jersey, and thus wears a particular fondness for anthemic blue-collar rock on her sleeve, while drummer and Idahoan Michael “Pearl” Nelson grounds the band both musically and geographically as the sole Northwest native. The Stubborn Lovers have been privileged to share the stage with a number of country and Americana luminaries, including Lydia Loveless, Lindi Ortega, American Aquarium, and legendary Texas singer-songwriter Robert Earl Keen. In 2015 they were twice nominated for awards by Portland alt newsweekly Willamette Week: first as the year’s Best New Band, and again in the annual readers’ poll as Best Alt Country Band. They will record their first full-length album in 2016.
Portland-based songwriter Malachi Graham presents noir-tinged alt-Americana inspired by complicated women. On her debut EP Selfish (April 2015), recorded to eight-track tape at Mike Coykendall’s Blue Room Studios in Portland, she channels female voices that are intoxicating, self-sabotaging, mesmerizing, and not preoccupied with being liked. With forceful, nuanced electric guitar, percussion, and three-part harmonies led by her strong, unaffected voice, Malachi’s sound perfectly mirrors the unapologetic heroines of her songs.