Jenny Don’t and the Spurs Bring Tireless Grit to the Road and Their New Release, “Broken Hearted Blue”

The album was made following the death of longtime drummer Sam Henry.

Jenny Don't and the Spurs (Jen Borst)

You won’t find a harder-working Portland band than Jenny Don’t and the Spurs. The beloved local cow punks spend nearly all of their time bringing their Pacific Northwest brand of country music to faraway dives, rock clubs and honky-tonks around the globe. Last year alone, the band played around 160 shows and are on track to do it again this year. They’ve played for audiences in almost all 50 states, along with stops across Canada, Mexico, about 15 European countries, Australia, New Zealand, Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines.

This no-stage-unplayed approach has allowed them to develop an immensely tight and energetic sound that can be heard all over their new album, Broken Hearted Blue, due out June 14 via Portland’s Fluff & Gravy Records.

Produced by local psych-rock hero Collin Hegna of Federale and The Brian Jonestown Massacre, the album finds the group at their sharpest despite having been made under tragic circumstances following the death of their drummer Sam Henry in 2022. It’s also the culmination of a journey that has led the band from their punk roots playing with legends like Dead Moon’s Fred and Toody Cole to impressing country fans far beyond the Oregon border.

For charismatic frontwoman Jenny Don’t, who splits songwriting duties with her husband and Spurs bassist Kelly Halliburton and also designs and sews her own dresses in the embroidered Nudie suit style, Broken Hearted Blue is the band’s most fully realized album and a reflection of their diverse influences.

“I feel like this band has really evolved into itself on this album,” Don’t says. “We wanted to do something where we wouldn’t be pigeonholed because we wanted to be able to play all kinds of places, and a lot of genres you get stuck in a box.”

Throughout the album, the band two-steps between everything from ‘60s pop and blues to Western songs and surf. Part of what makes the songs so cohesive is Don’t’s vocals. She often cites Patsy Cline and Neko Case as influences, and those can be heard in a voice that feels comforting and country—and has just the right amount of snarl.

With a solid following in the Pacific Northwest, the band could stick to regional gigs. But the road dog mentality Halliburton gained touring the world in punk bands was contagious, and soon the Spurs found themselves spending more time in their van than at home playing to anyone who would listen.

Halliburton credits the band’s willingness to play small towns to his upbringing on the Oregon Coast and Don’ts back-and-forth childhood between Washington and New Mexico, where their childhood selves would’ve killed to have a cool band come through town.

Over the course of the past year alone, the Spurs found themselves playing to drunken revelers on beaches across Southeast Asia, running over snakes in the jungle, playing inside of a water tower in the middle of Mexico, and rocking roadhouses across Australia.

“We intentionally try and play small towns, and we took that mentality with us when we played Australia,” Don’t says. “People were losing their minds, like, ‘What are you doing? No bands do this.’ People [came] to shows because they’re like, ‘We gotta see this crazy band that’s driving around the Outback.’”

Much of the band’s drive to play came after their upward trajectory was disrupted by the passing of Sam Henry, an important figure in Portland’s punk scene from his time in bands like the Wipers, Poison Idea and Napalm Beach.

“We had to recover as a band, not just emotionally, but we had to explore everything we were working on with Sam,” Don’t says.

Filling Henry’s shoes was hard. He was, after all, a large influence on Don’t’s getting into country music after playing bar gigs with him and testing their chops starting in 2008. Luckily, they managed to pull in Buddy Weeks, who was eager to saddle up and hit the road.

“We came to the same conclusion that we’ve been working our asses off the last 10 years and felt like if we stopped, it would be a real disservice to all the time Sam put in,” Halliburton says.

The Spurs’ ability to tour anywhere and grab the attention of listeners is evident throughout Broken Hearted Blue. Hegna’s cinematic production with elements of spaghetti Western soundtracks, surf and psych rock intermingles with their signature mix of honky-tonk, rockabilly and punk. The songs are brimming with twangy pedal steel and Christopher March’s masterful guitar playing that references everyone from Don Rich to Link Wray. The songs touch on themes of hope, resilience, loss and love while preserving the combustible fun of their live performances and never falling into a formulaic Americana sound.

With the release of Broken Hearted Blue, the Spurs have a packed schedule touring the country before heading to Europe and parts unknown, and a show here in Portland at Topaz Farm on July 25. Don’t and Halliburton aren’t kidding when they talk about hoping to play Africa one day. It’s this tireless work ethic and enthusiasm that’s made them one of the best-known acts in the Northwest’s bustling country and folk scene.

SEE IT: Topaz Farm, 17100 NW Sauvie Island Road, 503-928-7191, 5 pm Thursday, July 25. $20 in advance, $25 day of show, children $10.

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