To steal a line (sort of) from a film that I did not particularly care for, Jerry McGuire, “You had me at pedal steel guitar”. Oakland, California's, The Shants use it liberally on their debut record “Beautiful was the Night”.
The Shants state that “Beautiful was the Night” is “a haunted love letter to singer Skip Allums’ home state of Louisiana” as some of the titles to the tunes on the record would indicate. Songs such as track two, “Baton Rouge”, or track eight, “Evangeline Blues”, or track eleven “My Town is Under Water”. Those are the obvious ones.
Other tunes on the record are more of a tribute to the music that emerges from Louisiana. For instance, their tune “Brother” possesses that New Orleans bluesy jazz sound, thanks to Ralph Carney who brings his alto and baritone sax in to give the song that sound, while the core of the band helps the sound to remain their own. It is probably one of my favorite tunes on the entire record, with the exception of track twelve, but more about that later.
However, The Shants shine the brightest when they are The Shants. The strong vocals sung by Skip Allum are phenomenal. His voice literally completes every tune on the album, but he is not alone.
Sam Tokheim is exceptional on his wailing pedal steel guitar. The equally talented Carver Cordes is on bass, banjo, vocals, and accordion, and finally, Adam Burstein rounds out the band on drums, guitar, and vocals.
On several different occasions on the record, the band is aided by Brianna Lea Pruett on harmonies and
Howie Cockrill on violin and mandolin adding another layer of texture to the already moody sound the band has created, completing a lineup of a genuinely talented gathering of musicians.
Finally, I’ve mentioned my Grandfather in my articles/reviews previously. I must mention him again and it is probably more appropriate here than anywhere else I have ever brought him up.
As I have said, even though my family was not especially talented, other than my mother’s soft alto voice, and I sing a little too, we all loved music and listened to it just about all of the time-my Grandfather especially.
His greatest love was Dixieland Jazz and how do you suppose The Shants end this wonderful compilation of music dedicated to Louisiana? With a hybrid Dixieland Jazz tune called, appropriately enough, “Waste Another Song On You”.
The pedal steel is there as it is for almost the entire album, but The Blue Bone Express (Jara Ra, Kevin Brunetti, Brandon Stasch & Jesse Randell) brass quartet allow this to be a mostly Dixieland tune that got my head a noddin’ and my hips a shakin’ just like a good Dixieland tune should!
What an incredible way to end this wonderful record on a fantastic, and for me, an extremely nostalgic note. Papaw would have loved it!
The Shants “Beautiful was the Night” is out now and can be purchased on CD Baby.
‘Rebel’ Rod says to check it out!