There's a distinctive Townes Van Zandt sound coming from Los Angeles' hottest new country band, The Far West.
Stand-up bass and pedal steel combine to create a whine beneath the acoustic guitar and patter patter of snare drum on the band's single "Bitter Drunk & Cold" and an earlier tune "I'll Never Drink Again."
Impossibly cute frontman Lee Briante, with punky Justin Bieber hair and a 5 o'clock shadow, is rarely without a button-down Western-style shirt as he sings about drinking and drowning in love. This is throwback country, circa 1950s-'60s Opry. There's hints of some of the members' red-dirt South Texas sensibilities intertwined with a little Bakersfield sound from their adopted Cali.
"We call it alt-country or Americana," said Briante, calling from Los Angeles last week as the band got ready to embark on a five-day run to Arizona. They play Boondocks Lounge Saturday. "It's a little bit folk, a little bit country and definitely has an American flavor to it.
"We've tried to harken back to the original country music, which is very much into storytelling, clear specific lyrics, not too much metaphor," he added. "Everything is kind of plain and exposed."
Aside from two trips to Austin, Texas, for South By Southwest, The Far West has not ventured far from its California base. But Briante said that is changing, starting with this week's Arizona swing. He and the band, following in the footsteps of old-school country guys like Hank Williams, are building their reputation and fan base "one pair of ears at a time."
"There's an oversaturation of avenues for music," said the New York City native. "If you can put on a good show and play your instrument well, that's really what's important. There's so many ways to hear music without going to a show, so if you can put on a great show, that's the key."
Reviews of their shows have been overwhelmingly positive, with critics praising the band for its mix of slow waltzes, buckleshiners (their term for slow-dance songs) and train beat rockers.
"There's kind of a nice ebb and flow to the show," Briante said.
Tucson's own country dance band Last Call Girls, with Lisa McCallion on bass and behind the mic, open Saturday's show at 7 p.m. at Boondocks Lounge, 3356 N. First Ave. Admission is $7. Details: call 690-0991 or visit www.boondockslounge.com