Maybe it's just me, but Wyoming doesn't stand out as a real musical hotbed. Our smaller, squarer neighbor state is certainly better known for its cowboys than its tunesmiths, but the Wyomericana Caravan Tour aims to change that. The tour, which came through Missoula last year and returns again this week, spans five states in 19 days, and is composed of three Wyoming roots groups out to prove there's more to their home state than breakin' broncos.
The acts rotate sets at each tour stop, so there's no actual headliner. J. Shogren Shanghai'd is a weatherbeaten troubadour whose rough-hewn voice evokes Johnny Cash and Jerry Joseph, a mixture that serves his stories well. The growling lament "Broken Every Vow" is a particularly powerful number, driven by a lazy banjo lick and droning mandolin. Screen Door Porch, who has made a handful of appearances in town over the years, crafts breezy folk rock that reflects its name. The tandem male-female vocals play to a formula nearly beat to death in today's radio-folk arena, and yet the group's approach feels convincingly organic.
Out of the three groups, it's Patti Fiasco who is most likely to turn heads at the far end of the bar. The band delivers the rowdiest batch of tunes, with a mixture of rock 'n' roll and country twang featuring the electric dobro. Frontwoman Alysia Kraft creates vivid imagery in her lyrics to get her point across, such as in "Losing Game," when she laments, "Well the room is cold and the bed is neat, but I miss every tangle of those sheets." So many songs are about love lost, but not every songwriter can make you feel the consequences with this kind of ache.
The Wyoamericana Caravan Tour plays the Top Hat Fri., May 30, at 10 PM. $8.