Back in 1848, Amador County was the place to be; something to do with a coveted metallic element called gold. Word got out, of course, and 80,000 folk bum-rushed this sleepy patch of land nestled in the western foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains. It was the original wild, wild West.
Today, Cabernet and Zinfindel grapes are the new gold. And while there have been plenty of concessions to modernism, in some ways the Old West has simply evolved into the New West. Forever Goldrush — three drinkin’, swearin’, smokin’ country boys who call the Mother Lode home — are products of the latter, but with a firm grasp on the heritage of their surroundings.
Two years ago, singer Damon Wyckoff and guitarist Josh Lacey — friends since grade-school days and bandmates shortly thereafter before going their separate ways for awhile — reconnected in Sacramento and started playing music together again. Mason DeMusey, who spent many summers hanging at the river with Wyckoff and Lacey, caught wind of the rekindled relationship, bought a bass and began joining the living-room sessions. (The band is still searching for a full-time drummer; local mainstay Grub Dog, who also fronts his own band, the Amazing Sweethearts, has been filling the seat recently.)
Over a year or so of playing whenever and wherever they could, they’ve gradually become the talk of the town, and are now sporting a self-released debut disc, Unknown Territory. Wyckoff is the word guy, and possessor of a deep, dusty baritone that demands attention as waves of metaphor rife with Old West romanticism fill the room. Lacey is the sound guy, whether he’s ripping through some full-tilt Crazy Horse chaos or coaxing sweet sounds out of pedal steel. It’s roots-rock meets cowboy poetry.
“I’ve written a lot of poems,” Wyckoff acknowledges, noting that the occasionally unsettling imagery of the title track and “Still In The Water” are examples of intact poems that were set to music. “They’re not verse poems or anything, but I did the whole submit-to-literary-magazines thing, got published nationwide; did all that. But I got really soured on the whole poetry vibe.
“Music is similar in that you play your song, and what you’re trying to say is encompassed in this music. Some people hear it and some people don’t.”