Playing music that could only come from the desert Southwest — arid, lonely and mysterious — country songwriter Kassi Valazza comes to Eugene supporting her latest album, the outstanding Dear Dead Days, released in 2019.
Last year, in the early months of the pandemic, Valazza premiered a virtual performance on well-regarded Seattle radio station KEXP’s live concert series, available on YouTube. With roughly 45,000 views, the appearance boosted Valazza’s stature at a time when many artists were struggling to find their footing.
Watching the performance, it’s clear to see why. Arizona-raised and Portland-based, Valazza has a voice that’s potential hall-of-fame material: a little Neko Case, a little Loretta Lynn, a little Emmylou Harris and completely ageless.
Cut with psychedelia, what punctuates Valazza’s classic country songwriting is electric guitar work from Cary Sigler, offering hints of Jerry Garcia’s mischievous melodic sense in Sigler’s lines on Dead Days track “Mary.”
This is moody country music but also country music as a mood, renewing the urgency of Johnny Cash and The Tennessee Three’s classic loping backbeat. It’s like a trusty, worn-out horse guiding you through the desert toward your destination, whether that’s the comforts of home or the next dusty patch of ground, and especially for those who can’t decide one of those they prefer.
Kassi Valazza performs 8 pm Saturday, April 24, in the Soreng Theater, part of the Hult Center’s 10 X 10 Concert Series. Limited in-person tickets are sold out but live stream tickets are still available at HultCenter.org for $10.