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Straight Outta Union


It happens, and it isn’t always a bad thing: A band catches the right kind of fire, garnering minimal mainstream radio play but a strong word-of-mouth following of devoted fans who are drawn to something familiar yet new about the music. And if that band sticks around long enough, other musicians start absorbing its style. Lucero happens to be that band right now; featuring the bourbon-scorched plaint of Ben Nichols, Lucero’s influence is opening the door to a new generation of songwriters heartened by their Memphis-bent take on loneliness, booze and heartbreak.

Sideways Reign out of Union, Wash. (a one-horse town on Hood Canal’s Hwy 106, where Bill Gates keeps a summer house, and where meth, tourism and logging are the leading industries) immediately sparks comparisons to Lucero — especially guitarist/singer Justin Stang’s ashtray-and-gravel vocals. The comparison does the band no harm, because these Mason County kids use their apparent influences — Neil Young, Ray LaMontagne, a bit of ‘90s Seattle pop-‘n’-sludge — as a starting point for exploring their own captivating take on down-‘n’-out rock/country/blues, Northwest style.

Similar in its defiance and tenacious drive to a certain defunct band that hailed from nearby Aberdeen, Sideways Reign — whose excellent full-length debut, A Stand for All Stages, has become something of a download sensation — creates good, often great music in a cultural vacuum. And with songs like “Fire, Lies & Wine” and “Oxygen,” the group reveals a knack for keen melodies and bittersweet lyrics buttressed by the intimate, organic instrumentation that only comes from jamming together for a very long time. If that ain’t enough stumpin’ for you, check this: Stang ran for state senator in 2010 on the Sustainability Platform (in the heart of clear-cutting country, no less), and Sideways Reign has toured overseas, started a scholarship program and adopted a state highway. Righteous.

Sideways Reign plays 9 pm Friday, Jan. 6, at the Black Forest.