• Jake Clifford

It's out there, right now, rolling from LA to Vegas. A glint in the low-afternoon sun, making a slow curve northeast through the Mojave Desert. Is it a buzzard? A stallion? A jackrabbit? Yes, it is. It's also a wily eight-piece band of merry shitkickers from Seattle called Country Lips who specialize in a fortified brand of slap-back, honky-tonk, and countrified rock and roll. If you like Merle Haggard, the Flying Burrito Brothers, and some of Skynyrd's jukier numbers, you'll want to step on into this. Their latest full-length, Nothing to My Name, was mixed by Stuart Sikes (Loretta Lynn, White Stripes, Cat Power, Modest Mouse), and with it, the Lips have made giant strides. Out of the gate on "Black Water," guitar-picked riffs and piano lock in and run together. They're shooting whiskey while shooting skeet, and they're nailing the same flying clay target right down the middle every time. Fiddle and mandolin rise out of the breakdown; somebody shimmies in the corner. The room stomps and spins. A three-part harmony rings up the chorus, and the tight-licked riff reloads again. Country Lips have recently retired their beloved, well-traveled van and acquired a bus, where they can spread out more. It's almost to Vegas now, heading past Sloan Canyon. The driver's the only one awake. No one slept the night before. The band spoke over beers before leaving on tour.

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