It’s not every day you hear soulful country-rock, but that’s exactly what you get from the Horsepainters. This SoCal band’s unusual but pristine sound and style is primarily the product of Dave Clucas, the trio’s lead singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist. You see, Clucas—a native of nearby Upland—grew up surrounded by the desert, mountains, and long, windy roads, so it’s easy to figure out where his band’s dust-on-the-prairie, Flying Burrito Brothers-meets-the-Band-and Stones stew comes from. And you just gotta dig that lonesome double-wail of the harmonica and vintage lap steel guitar. But what makes the Horsepainters such an unexpected delight is how the group—also featuring lead guitarist J.D. Bogan and drummer Corey Gash—can get its groove on. I mean, who knew Otis, Aretha, and Sam and Dave (plus a smattering of Memphis soul) could weave their influences through such Horsepainter chestnuts as “Not Another Year” and “Dear Miss City?” What also impresses the hell out of me is how Clucas flushes out story-songs of lust, betrayal, drinking, driving, and—perhaps most importantly—honest-to-goodness resiliency. Similar to Fletcher Harrington & Cowboy Buddha, he uses vivid imagery and detail in ways that allow characters and scenes to realistically unfold. A careful listen to a song like “I’ll Drive” puts you right behind the wheel. How cool is that? (John Roos)
The Horsepainters play the Press Restaurant, 129 Harvard Ave., Claremont, (909) 625-4808; www.thepressrestaurant.com. Fri., 10 p.m. Free.