Victoria George and The High Lonesome at the Sweetwater Music Hall, by Carolyn McCoy
Victoria George and The High Lonesome (photo: Carolyn McCoy)

Words by Carolyn McCoy

Marin County singer-songwriter Victoria George’s music is a sonic cocktail of sorts. Add one part folk, two parts twangy-country, and a splash of pop, shake well and serve with a sprig of soul. Consume all you wish, as this nectar of sound will no doubt get you high without consequence. Her stories are in line with those told by her fore-sisters in old and current country; heartbreak, happiness, bad men and journeys both physical and emotional. George is a pint-sized beauty with a big voice; high and smooth with a gentle fierceness as she plays her guitar and sings her stories.

Her recent Sweetwater Music Hall show was a-buzzing for a Wednesday evening, with fans, family, and friends all showing up to do some foot-stomping on the wooden dance floor. George does “country” right with boldness and truth, and her backing band, the High Lonesome, is nothing short of “the real shit.” Slide-guitar master Dave Zirbel provides the twang and bassist Mike Anderson shares vocal chores while creating the pulse for the music. Guitarist Gawain Mathews creates a rocking vibe while he interplays with Zirbel. Drummer Rob Hooper (one of my favorite Bay Area drummers) lays down the backbeat with sonic force and a smile to boot.

George and the band made no fuss to begin their show, running through many songs off her recent album The High Lonesome. Kicking things into high gear with the mandolin-driven “Sweet Amnesia,” her voice ringing clear as she sings “and I remember why I said goodbye”. “Lonely Town” is a classic old-school heartbreak ballad, and with “When Bad Men Happen To Good Women,” I could only cheer on for the reality that the song represents. George also covered an array of wonderful songs such as Kacey Musgraves’ “Slow Burn,” Patty Griffin’s “Long Ride Home,” and Gram Parsons' “We’ll Sweep Out The Ashes In The Morning” as a duet with San Geronimo’s Jeremy D’Antonio, creating a sweet sound as their two voices intermingled.

Victoria George and the High Lonesome are a refreshing force in the Bay Area music scene. They make country music accessible and fun while upholding the traditional vibe that has been set by the likes of Dolly Parton and Loretta Lynn while adding a modern feel. The music itself is a journey from old school to new school and everything in between.