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Best Country Band 

Red Meat

Don't dare label Red Meat altcountry or Americana. It is, first and foremost, a country band, drawing primarily from the sparkling, twang-laden, whiskey-spiked well of the Bakersfield sound (cf Buck Owens, Merle Haggard), as well as from iconic honky-tonker George Jones. But neither is it retro or purist: Pop/rock and bluegrass influences are evident, and the songs' subjects cover everything from answering machines to S/M to the terminal gentrification of San Francisco. The act has three fine, distinctive lead singers in Smelly Kelley (suave and salty), Scott Young (also on guitar, fiddle, and trombone, and the primary songwriter), and Jill Olson (bass). Their harmonies recall the genetic harmonies of the Louvin Brothers and the yearning duets of Loretta Lynn and Conway Twitty. Guitarist Michael Montalto provides snap-cracklin' string-bending, and drummer Les James supplies jet-age propulsion. (Pedal steel guitarist Max Butler often joins the group onstage.) Unlike some "roots" bands, Red Meat doesn't attempt to convince you how "down home" it is: Since its members are expatriates from Iowa and Oklahoma, all they got to do is act naturally. Red Meat performs June 5 at 12 Galaxies, 2565 Mission (at 22nd Street), S.F. Call 970-9777 or visit


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