As far as country music goes, it's respectable when a band avoids the common path of overly lonesome tunes—even when their debut release is complicated by a pandemic. For those trapped inside seeking to hear an eclectic mix of pastoral and compelling country rock tracks, The County Line's debut EP Last Call is a great reprieve.
A labor of love discussing times both positive and rough, Last Call is a six-song release that shows Tucson locals blending energy and acoustics.
"We had previously recorded one of the songs at a local studio but weren't happy with how it came out," said guitarist and singer Mark Ewings. "We ended up buying the software, recording equipment and decided to produce, record and mix it all ourselves. Having the time to go back and re-record pieces until we were happy was invaluable. We also learned a whole new set of skills in the process."
For The County Line, Last Call is a long time coming; two of the tracks have been in the band's rotation since 2018, and multiple others were about "half done," while others were written and finished just this year. In many ways, Last Call is a compilation of the band's progress from cover songs to original material.
"We've been playing mostly cover songs in bars for a while. We're big music fans and love playing other people's songs but the next logical step as musicians was to create our own," Ewings said. "Admittedly, we took way too long to do it. We hope that people can relate to the emotions on these six songs. We've got party songs, love songs, cheating songs and sad songs."
While many of the tracks on Last Call contain that classic country guitar twang, the addition of bluegrass fiddle and brighter rock vocal melodies keep the songs from sounding too familiar. But even if the tracks do sound familiar, that shouldn't deter the country music fan, as so much of Last Call is lively, engaging balladry.
"Country music is all about great stories and great vocals. We hope we lived up to that on this album," Ewings said. "Realistically, we hope that this EP says to the audience that we are here. This is our start and we're motivated to keep moving forward and keep creating new music."
Despite jumping through various genres and playing styles in the greater country web, Last Call features a consistently vast sound thanks to its wide cast of performers. Alongside Ewings are guitarists Nick Lyman, Mike Miller and Dan Barry, as well as drummer Kyle Robinson and fiddle player Marisa Black. Every member of the band also takes turns singing, with Lyman leading.
The six performers in The County Line have more in common than similar music tastes; four of them work together in local law enforcement and have been playing together since 2011. Lead singer Lyman, who joined in 2016, is a military veteran and fiddle player Black, who joined in 2019, is part of a law enforcement family.
"We didn't plan it out that way but it just worked out that everyone has ties to service to our country and community. We all love playing music," Ewings said. "This band is a great way for all of us to escape our daily jobs and have a creative outlet that can connect with other people."