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Featured Artist on the Verge in the Bluegrass Special. February, 2011

Recent comments from radio…

“Great new songs, some touching, some just plain fun. These Paramours get better with every new release. PS. ‘Chains’ is brilliant!”

Gene Shay, WDVX Philadelphia, PA

“The Twangtown Paramours bring a blend of thought-provoking lyrics with angelic vocals combined with well-accomplished musicians. What more could you ask for? I guarantee the Twangtown Paramours self-titled CD to be a welcome addition to any collection.”

Dennis Double, co-host Writer’s Block, WDVX-FM, Knoxville, TN

“These are professional musicians, with the dexterity and variety you’d expect from people with backgrounds like theirs. This CD will delight music lovers across a spectrum of genres.”

John McLaughlin, Roots & Wings, WMUC-FM, College Park, MD

“Listening to the music of the Twangtown Paramours was a delight, and is the type of Americana that best fits my show.”

Lilli Kuzma, host of Folk Festival, WDCB-FM, Glen Ellyn/Chicago, IL

“Played the front track on yesterday’s program, Great recording! Bravo!”

Chris Darling, host of Us Folk, WMPG, Portland, ME

More Reviews

The other pairing of note with a new album out states their position plainly in their musical identity as the Twangtown Paramours, which is also the title of their debut album. The couple in question is multi-instrumentalist/songwriter Mike T. Lewis and his real-life paramour, MaryBeth Zamer (the dictionary defines paramour as “illicit lover, esp. of a married person,” but Mr. Lewis and Ms. Zamer emphasize theirs is a completely aboveboard liaison). These Twangtown Paramours, though making their debut as a recording entity, are hardly coming from nowhere: Mr. Lewis has toured as a standup bassist with Jimmie Dale Gilmore, and as a songwriter he’s had a massive #1 pop hit in South Korea (“A Heartbeat Away” by Yang Pa) and had his songs cut by a variety of indie artists on these shores, in the U.K. and in Japan. Ms. Zamer has been singing demos and background vocals in Nashville, and previously sang with the band Method Actor, featuring the late, great Eva Cassidy. Based indeed in Twangtown (Nashville), the Paramours’ introductory effort is a total delight of smart songs abundant in heart and wit, discrete but engaged musical support, and striking vocals by Ms. Zamer, whose soothing but plaintive voice surely must have caught Ms. Cassidy’s ear, but beyond that is the fact of its alluring, seductive quality: the country in her comes through clearly, but she has a way of selling a song with sophisticated, complex emotional shadings that suggest she could work wonders with the Great American Songbook (she’s an earthier Rachel Bay Jones, who brought bluegrass to her natural Broadway leanings on her impressive 2009 debut, ShowFolk). Mr. Lewis leaves most of the vocalizing to his twangtown paramour, but has a striking moment of his own on his lovely, guitar-and-dobro billet doux, “Ciara My Dear” (pronounced Keer-a), a heart tugging romantic plea to a damaged soul reluctant to “surrender and let me dry your tears,” which succeeds not only on the basis of melody and austere ambiance, but also by the singer’s plainspoken but nuanced beseeching of his reluctant inamorata.

In an album defined by gentle, folk-country rhythms and atmospheres created with admirable subtlety by a tight ensemble of guitar, bass, drums, dobro, pedal steel and the occasional keyboard; measured readings overflowing with conviction; and literate writing exploring the ways of the heart—there are breakups, unions and reunions all going on here—it’s hardly surprising to find so many songs with a positive, balanced perspective, a healthy attitude towards the twists and turns and what becomes of people who wrap their lives around each other’s. The catchiest song here, “Might As Well Be You,” a sturdy, propulsive shuffle with a soaring chorus demanding to be sung along with, finds the narrator ignoring “the ghosts of bad choices,” accepting the inevitability of heartbreak (“all I’ve known, all I’ve been shown, are the thousand ways love dies”) and embracing with cool equanimity the certainty of being dumped by the current object of her affection as the best of all possible outcomes. In “On My Way,” the album opening ballad, the singer, framed by a decidedly southwest-flavored arrangement rich in fiddle and dobro, is packing up and leaving, saying sayonara to a failed relationship, but matter of factly, without bitterness, accepting the toll exacted as the price paid for her commitment, now beginning a new chapter as she vows to let her ex’s memory fade—but adding, “if I can’t forget/I’ll try to forgive.” When things are good, they’re really good, and the Paramours state this as clearly as they outline the speed bumps in other songs—in terms “Simple and True,” to cite the quiet, fingerpicked ballad that seems the album’s emotional center in its frank admission of how the real thing can defy explanation and definition both, and is best understood as a feeling, “like this simple ache I have for you…and it’s simple and true,”; or, as delineated in the soft shuffle of “Under the Next Blue Sky,” in acknowledging the certainty of love’s persistence, no matter the distance between partners or the turning of the earth. Ultimately, the Paramours’ outlook is summarized in the penultimate track, “Rise,” its shifting textures and more forceful thrust foreshadowing and enhancing each verse’s affirmation of the point the stories here have made, to wit: “Everything must fall away/and everything must rise.” The Paramours’ voices harmonize and elevate on the word “rise,” carrying it and the song forward, infusing it with hope and possibility. There’s the rub—hope and possibility. From the Twangtown Paramours’ mouths to our ears, and may we learn to find the place of grace so vividly described in their exquisitely rendered tales.

I received a package from the Nashville based Twangtown Paramours and it found its way to the box I whimsically refer to as “CD Limbo” where it remained until I found a few spare moments to open it and give it a whirl. I sat listening and lamenting not getting to this CD sooner – it’s really good. I like everything about it, from the packaging to the superb production and musicianship. I would hate to be the person charged with the responsibility of choosing which song to work as the single from this project. From the first track “On My Way” to “Orpan In The Storm” and closing with the very humorous “Ballad of Little Lulu” The Twangtown Paramours spin an emotionally charged web of insightful and engaging stories that leave the listener wanting more. This CD is definitely a keeper…

The Twangtown Paramours are MaryBeth Zamer and Mike T. Lewis. According to the Bio on their website, “MaryBeth Zamer has sung professionally since the age of 18. Before moving to Nashville, she was a fixture of the local music scene in the Washington, D.C. area, where she fronted a popular bar band for several years. Mike T. Lewis has played guitar for a million and a half years, and bass for about half that long. He sometimes tours with Jimmie Dale Gilmore, playing upright bass. In 1997, Mike had a #1 pop hit in South Korea on Yang Pa’s first album called “A Heartbeat Away.”

I would like to thank Georgeanne Olive for giving me the heads up on The Twangtown Paramours and then relentlessly reminding me to give them a listen. Your persistence is appreciated.

The duo of MaryBeth Zamer and Mike Lewis make some incredible music, there’s no doubt about it. They are proof that two great musical minds can sometimes be better than one. They are one of those acts that you can’t put neatly in a 6 + 6 box and classify. No, better yet….you actually have to listen to them to get them.

“Getting them” is a pretty exciting thing to do, though. They have recorded some very impressive material that blends Country, Pop, and even a few cool breezes from California, by the way. The first cut, “On My Way,” has a definite Ronstadt-ish sound to it, but Zamer is able to hit it well. One of the other highlights from the disc is “Simple & True,” which is a beautiful and effective love song.

There’s a little something for everybody on this disc, regardless of what genre you might prefer. Whether it be Folk (“The Moon And Back”), Traditional Country (“Under The Next Blue Sky”), Tropical (“The Ballad Of Little Lula), or when they mix it all up into a melting pot (“Rise”), they are a duo that rises to the occasion time in and time out!

For more about TTP or to buy this CD, visit

Twangtown, as in, Nashville, where the people play guitar a lot. Paramours, and in they are an item.

Mike T. Lewis, a successful songwriter and musician (he had a number 1 hit in South Korea. Chew on that for a while) and vocalist MaryBeth Zamer, who has been a longtime fixture in the Washington, DC and Nashville music communities, have collaborated to form the Twangtown Paramours.

Their self-titled debut CD is expertly produced by Mike, himself, to feature Marybeth’s singing – and that is worth featuring. The genre is more country than folk, with a mixture of pedal steel guitar and dobro, and a decidedly Texas blues influence. We’ll just call it Americana.

The cuts are in a varying level of seriousness. At this moment I particularly liked the more whimsical “You Play Me Like a Radio” and the bonus cut, explaining how Little Lulu keeps cool in the hot Polynesian sun. I’d explain further, but this is a family column. Tomorrow maybe I will be more inclined toward the serious numbers.

Not yet released to the general public, you, my loyal Chicago Folk Music Examiner fans, can order a copy through their web page, Ok, anybody can, but at least you now know about it, through the magic of the internet.

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