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These gals are blue hot

Western Dream
Western Dream
By Ranch Romance

Sugar Hill Records: 1990

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Blue Blazes
Blue Blazes
By Ranch Romance

Sugar Hill Records: 1991

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Hot as Blue Blazes (video)
By Ranch Romance

Self-released: 1992

This review first appeared in the September 18, 1992 issue of the North County Blade-Citizen (now North County Times).

With a big-as-all-outdoors sound, strong picking across the board, and a stable of fresh, new songs, Seattle's Ranch Romance has all the ingredients to break through to the big time.

In recognition of this, Sugar Hill Records has released the band's latest album, "Blue Blazes," in conjunction with a re-release of the band's self-produced debut album, "Western Dream." In addition, the band has put together a video, "Hot as Blue Blazes," featuring a half-dozen songs from the two CDs.

Fronted by guitarist/vocalist/yodeller Jo Miller, who also writes most of the band's material, the quintet also features Barbara Lamb on fiddle, Nancy Katz on upright bass, Nora Devonie on accordion, and lone male David Keenan on electric guitar. "Western Dream" also featured vocalist/mandolinist Lisa Theo, no longer with the band.

"Hot as Blue Blazes" avoids the common practice of overdramatization. Most of the footage is of the band playing before a dance floor in a western club. While Ranch Romance's music is as modern-sounding and accessible as Alan Jackson or Randy Travis' latest hit, they blend it with traditional rhythms that allow the audience in the video to cut some mean two-steps and western swing.

It's Miller that makes the whole thing go. While firmly in the C&W tradition (unlike a Garth Brooks who's as much rock as country), Miller's k.d. lang haircut, warm vocals and melodic songwriting make Ranch Romance as contemporary as the latest MTV act. Listening to "Western Dream" provides an interesting contrast, as Theo shared fully a third of the lead vocals. Theo had a much more traditional sound, though, and the new CD, "Blue Blazes," is much more likely to get airplay.

The rhythm section of Katz, Miller and Devonie swings with a gentle groove on each cut, while Keenan's electric guitar solos are graceful and understated.