The best country music always has good punchlines, and on Amanda Cevallos' new album, I'll Never Honky Tonk You, there's no shortage of play on words. Titles like "He Won't Stop Leavin' Me Alone" and "Texas Hold Him" embrace that tradition, along with the practice of mentioning Johnny Cash and singing about honky tonksthough Cevallos is the first singer I've heard use "honky tonk" as an action that you do to someone.
The former Missoulian and current Austin musician struts the fine line between classicthough totally loveabletropes and original storylines. "Jose Guadalupe" is a sweet and dark song, full of aching pedal steel, about Cevallos' tumultuous relationship with her father. She says he always gave such good advice, but she'd rather see him in jail alive. In that one and "Good For Nothing But Each Other" pained twangs punctuate her clear vocals. She's got a pretty voice but, like Loretta Lynn, you can hear in the way her vocals crack in all the right places that life's been a little rough.
Sassiness becomes her in the title track, but the biggest hit on her album has to be "Read My Hips Swayin' Goodbye" in which she taunts her former lover by singing, "This is what leavin' you looks like from behind," as he watches her walk away. This is one of the best original honky-tonk albums I've heard in a long time, and Cevallos' return to Missoula for the release makes it all the more exciting.
Amanda Cevallos and her band play a CD-release show at the Top Hat Thu., Nov. 8, at 9 PM. $5.