"Orange County's country music scene is kind of asleep right now," Alice Wallace says, despite a fan base that has supported acts everywhere from the late, great Crazy Horse to the Honda Center. "There's a lot of indie, punk rock, even some blues. Country is buried and kind of underrepresented."
Instead of just complaining about the situation, Wallace did something to help to fix it. The Fullerton-based front woman recently joined forces with some of Orange County's top local country artists to create a weekly "California Country" series at Big's Bar & Grill in Fullerton. Wallace hits the Friday-night showcase this week and hopes the fledgling series will light a fire in the local country-music community.
Wallace's knack for saccharine melodies, impeccable Appalachian-style yodeling and storytelling make her an ideal person to bring some extra hee-haw to this grassroots movement. The Florida native's sophomore full-length album, A Thousand Miles From Home, was released late last year and spawned multiple mini-tours, including an upcoming two-week run with her guitarist Tom Bremer that meanders through Southern California, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado and Utah.
Wallace's involvement in the series began after a gig in March, when she met Daniel Bonte of local country outfit Daniel Bonte and the Bona Fide. The two performers sparked a conversation about the need for a reliable home for country music, as well as the importance of uniting artists in the genre.
This lead Bonte to recruit Wallace for an unofficial roundtable meeting that included Bill Bennett of Secret Chief Culture, Ry Bradley, Bo Renaud and Brad Lewis. After building on advice from Bennett, the remaining organizers began shaping the country night at Big's in hopes of reviving Orange County's dormant scene.
"Daniel [Bonte] spearheaded the whole thing," says Wallace. "Everybody's doing their thing and trying to make it, but nobody's teaming up. We're hoping this snowballs and attracts new attention to country music here."
Wallace garnered attention of her own over the past year, picking up OC Music Award Nominations for Best Country/Americana and Best Live Band, as well as an invitation to perform at the upcoming Groovefest American Music Festival in Cedar City, Utah. The Groovefest organizers additionally asked Wallace to teach a yodeling workshop, a vocal aspect of her performances that she feels is a crowd-pleasing run at reviving a lost art. Her affinity for soaring high notes began with '90s singer/songwriter Jewel and eventually lead to her discovering such legendary artists as Hank Williams and Jimmie Rodgers and drawing further influence from the likes of Emmylou Harris and Patsy Cline.
Wallace feels there's a market for quality country music in Orange County, starting with "California Country" nights, but, she admits, the challenge lies in finding a way to tap into that market. "I think, in a lot of ways, country gets a bad rap," says Wallace. "We're trying to create a sense of community so people who want to see good country music know where to find it."
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Alice Wallace performs with Katelyn Marie and the Outriders at Big's Bar & Grill, 323 N. State College Blvd., Fullerton, (714) 526-4950; www.bigsfullerton.com. Fri., 9 p.m. $5. 21+.