There was an article recently in Rolling Stone about a group of über-talented studio musicians nicknamed "the Mellow Mafia" whose laid-back playing style pretty much defined soft rock. During the musicians' 1970s heyday everyone from James Taylor to Carly Simon to Jackson Browne featured them on their records and took them on the road as a backing band when they toured.
If Missoula had a Mellow Mafia it might be the group Aran Buzzas gathered for his latest record, 3-7-77. It's a fantastic assortment featuring most of the members of the mystic folk outfit Stellarondo and their sister act, Broken Valley Roadshow, along with Andy Dunnigan of the Lil Smokies. They give 3-7-77 a perfectly unpolished feel resembling Nashville country, but all organic and made in Montana.
The only one not pulling his full weight here is Buzzas. He obviously has a passion for outlaw country and songs like "Biggest Fool" cover the tear-in-my-beer depression already well voiced in countless George Jones songs. By straining to imitate his heroes' aesthetic, Buzzas comes across as a caricaturist of country music rather than an innovative songsmith. This is a shame because with a little more originality he could weave gold with such a formidable backing band.
Aran Buzzas plays the Top Hat Fri., May 24, from 6 to 8 PM for Family Friendly Night and again at 10 PM with the Foghorn Stringband.