By Eleni P. Austin

Jenny Don’t & The Spurs have just released an excellent new record, Broken Hearted Blue. Jenny originally got her start in Portland, Oregon, fronting her own pithily monikered Punky combo, DON’T. By 2012, she had connected with bassist Kelly Halliburton. At that point, Kelly had made a name for himself simultaneously playing drums for Garage Rockers the Pierced Arrows, and anchoring the low end on bass for Punk progenitors P.R.O.B.L.E.M.S.

Increasingly, both found themselves drawn to the ragged but right sounds of legendary Country musicians like Patsy Cline, Hank Williams, Sr., Loretta Lynn and Ernest Tubb. Initially, they worked up cover versions of their favorite classics. But soon enough they began writing their own rootsy originals.

Jenny and Kelly’s nascent project got a boost when Fred and Toody Cole (the husband and wife who were two-thirds of Pierced Arrows, and formerly part of the influential Portland cult band Dead Moon), tapped them to open a Pierced Arrows show. The duo augmented their bare-bones sound by enlisting drummer Sam Henry who had originally pounded the kit for DON’T, but is probably known as the timekeeper for first generation Portland Punk acts like The Wipers, Napalm and Poison Idea.. After some intense woodshedding, Jenny Don’t & The Spurs’ live debut went off without a hitch.


In their earliest incarnation, the band existed as a trio, but not by choice. They cycled through a series of guitarists that couldn’t keep up with Jenny & The Spurs’ rigorous touring schedule. Finally, they crossed paths with Christopher March. The guitar-slinger was something of a road dog, having spent years on the Northwest Honky-Tonk circuit earning his Country and Rockabilly bona fides. With the final puzzle-piece in place, the band hit the ground running. They plied their trade in Punk clubs, dive bars, roadhouses and Honky-Tonks throughout the U.S. and Europe. Between tours they managed to record two self-released long-players plus a clutch of 7” singles, before signing with the Fluff & Gravy label. Just ahead of the pandemic Jenny faced a health scare with vocals surgery, but the band roared back in 2021 with Fire On The Ridge. Although the band was devastated when Sam lost his battle with cancer in 2022, they persevered, recruiting drummer Buddy Weeks. Now, they’re back with their brand new album, Broken Hearted Blue.

The album’s opening three tracks put the pedal to the metal. “Flyin’ High” is powered by thrashy guitars, nimble bass lines and a punishing backbeat. Jenny’s soulful contralto wraps around lyrics that recount a Summery amour fou: “The day we met the warmth of May filled the Springtime air, everything around us stopped when I saw you standin’ there, and I was flyin’ high.” A squally guitar solo soars and then sours, wringing out every ounce of passion until the ardor cools: “The summer love we thought we shared turned to Winter’s gloom, we thought that what we had would last but it faded much too soon, and I was flyin’ high.”

The instrumental swagger and sangfroid of “Pain In My Heart” nearly camouflages the sad-sack sentiments contained herein. Twangy guitars partner with chicken-scratch bass, keening pedal steel and a snap-back beat. Jenny’s demeanor is slightly desperate as her half-assed mea culpa seems to fall on deaf ears: “Well, I know I treated you bad, I treated you poorly, and now I’m getting’ mine because I’m sittin’ here lonely, and I know I treated you bad, I treated you poorly, now I want you back what can I do, cause I only want to be with you, yeah, it’s only you I want to give all my love to.” Guitars lock into a raucous do-si-do on the break, as if to say what’s good for the goose is good for the gander.

A pounding drum salvo collides with shang-a-lang guitars and thready bass on “Jealous Heart.” Here arrangement eschews the band’s Rootsy aesthetic, leaning into a surprisingly adroit Surf-Rock sound. Jenny bemoans the green-eyed monster that lurks (not-too far) beneath the surface: “I’ve got a jealous heart, runnin’ like a wild dog in heat, I’ve got a jealous heart, it gets redder with every beat, I’ve got a jealous heart it’s big and full of envy.” A rumbling guitar solo hangs 10 on the break, equal parts brawny and lithe.

This record is pretty perfect, but the best songs unspool back-to-back at the beginning of side two. The title-track is up first. Rangy guitars and barbed bass lines are tethered to a galloping gait, as Jenny’s high-lonesome croon hugs the hairpin turns of the arrangement. Part torch, part twang, the lyrics explicate the allure of a seductive drifter: “Handsome stranger, touch of danger, you’re someone new, you caught my eye, I cannot lie, I wanted you, the Desert heat and sagebrush sweet, we met at high noon, a day so bright, but shadowed night steals us soon.” On the break, lachrymose guitars mirror the lyrical equivocation, even as they tangle with filigreed fretwork that is by turns spiky and sweet. Ultimately she leaves her destiny in the hands of fate.

The Bluesy chord cluster that opens “One More Night” is quickly supplanted by searing lead guitar riffs, lowing bass and a see-saw beat. Although all signs point to moving on: “I can hear the Bullfrogs callin,’ you better tell ‘em, I’m staying one more night, I can see the bad moon rising, so I’m hanging round for one more night,” Jenny’s staying put. Guitars spark and pinwheel on the beak, toggling between stinging Blues, swampy Country and sinewy Punk riffs.

Meanwhile, “You’re What I Need,” weds prickly guitar licks, sparkly pedal steel and tensile bass to a locomotive beat. Something of a jittery travelogue, the lyrics detail a cross-country trek to reunite with a feckless lover: “I’ve got white-line fever, I haven’t slept in weeks, I couldn’t tell you the last time I felt anything less than beat, but that doesn’t matter none to me, no, cause you’re what I need, I don’t need the moon or the stars, or the shinin’ sun above, the only thing I’m tryin’ to get is love.” The elastic arrangement is so tight you could bounce a quarter off it. Souped-up guitars rev and race on the break, latticed by come-hither pedal steel and a whipcrack rhythm. Despite his foibles, she’s standing by her man: “I’ve been on the road a long time and the road’s been wearin’ on me, I’ve been ramblin’ from coast to coast and I’m as lonely as I can be…I heard you’ve been runnin’ round town and I heard you’ve been looking for me, I heard we had a real good time and I guess I’d have to agree, cause there’s no one else I’m comin’ back to see, you’re the one I need.”

Finally, “My Baby’s Gone” exhibits the primitive cool evinced Sun Records’ era Elvis, as well as Rock/R&B architects like Bo Diddley and Chuck Berry. Low-slung guitar riffs and coiled bass lines are bookended by the same insistent Afro-Cuban clave rhythm that Elias Otha Bates (a.k.a. Bo Diddley), introduced to most of the Western World as the Bo Diddley Beat in 1955. (It has since been co-opted by everyone from the Rolling Stones and David Bowie to George Michael and U2). Jenny even adopts a Presley-esque sneer as she pines for an absent love: “Every day is blue and grey, I wish my love coulda made you stay, without your love I’m so alone, tell me what I can do? Come back home.” Honeyed guitar licks dart through the mix as a ticklish rim clicks, add a percussive kick. The arrangement accelerates on the break as guitars peel rubber across the finish line.

Other interesting tracks include “Unlucky In Love” and “Sidewinder.” The former opens tentatively, anchored by agile bass lines and a walloping backbeat that displays some Spector-esque, “Be My Baby” heft. Growling guitars split the difference between dusty, Spaghetti Western riffs and James Bond villainy. Concurrently, lyrics spin a web of shopworn humility: “I know it’s not me that you can’t get enough of, I know it’s not me, it couldn’t be, I’m not the one, I know it’s not me when you say you’re fallin’ in love, I know it’s not me, couldn’t be, I’m not good enough, I know it’s not me, it couldn’t be, I’m not the one.” On the break, a bendy guitar solo begs to differ, as it spirals and shakes.

The latter is an ophidian instrumental that matches sinuous bass lines and reptilian guitars to a throbbing, triple-time tattoo. Back in the days when instrumental tracks occasionally dotted the AM radio dial, this one could have sandwiched nicely between Link Ray’s “Rumble” and the theme from “George Of The Jungle.”

The album closes with “Bones In The Sand.” If it were possible for Dick Dale and Ennio Morricone to have a musical love child, it might sound like this. Reverb-drenched guitar riffs brush up against plangent rhythm guitar, loose-limbed bass and a cantilevered beat. Once again, Jenny yearns for what used to be: “Broken heart, broken up, can’t just let it go when you gave it so much, had a real love that I didn’t want to end, I would do anything to see you again.” It’s a restless finish to a stellar record.

The production from Collin Hegna (Brian Jonestown Massacre, Federale), is lean and unfussy. The four-piece, augmented by Rusty Blake on pedal steel. While Sam Henry’s absence is keenly felt, Buddy Weeks acquits himself beautifully behind the kit. Jenny Don’t & The Spurs just keep getting better and better. Broken Hearted Blue delivers on the promise made with Fire On The Ridge. They’ve turned a corner with this album. By turns tough and tender, it displays grit and gravitas even as it serves up a rollicking good time.