Friday, Nov. 11, at 8 p.m.
Callaghan’s Irish Social Club, 916 Charleston St., www.callaghansirishsocialclub.com
Tickets: $13, available at Callaghan’s
When a band has an extraordinary debut at Callaghan’s, locals tend to be abuzz, and those who missed out wait impatiently for their return. Earlier this year Austin-based Shinyribs brought the Oakleigh crowd a three-ring circus of soulful swamp pop featuring the Tijuana Trainwreck Horns and The Shiny Soul Sisters. Word of the band’s charismatic live show spread, and now those who missed Shinyribs’ Mobile debut have another chance to experience this great up-and-comer’s electrifying music and live show.
Shinyribs hasn’t always featured its current lineup or sound. The band and its style have evolved over the years, beginning in the mind of Kevin Russell, who brought along his brother-in-law, drummer Keith Langford, for the ride.
Previously, both Russell and Langford were members of The Gourds, an alt. country group achieving a moderate fame by way of an internet-infused grassroots movement that spread their newgrass version of the Snoop Dogg classic “Gin & Juice.”
When The Gourds began a hiatus in 2013, Russell shifted his focus to Shinyribs, a small side-project with keyboardist Winfield Cheek and bassist Jeff Brown. Russell guided what he calls “the core of the band” into the world of swamp pop. Together they released the albums “Well After Awhile” and “Gulf Coast Museum.” As they were recording their third effort, “Okra Candy,” destiny took Shinyribs on a slight detour.
“It just kind of happened that there was a wedding that I was hired to do a few years back,” Russell said. “The groom wanted me to get a horn section, and he had a list of songs that he wanted me to cover. I was like, ‘OK, but that’s going to cost you more money.’ He said, ‘That’s fine. I just want to hear you with a horn section.’”
Russell found his horns at an Uncle Lucius concert in Austin, Texas. For that performance, Uncle Lucius was featuring brass masters Tiger Anaya and Mark Wilson, better known as the Tijuana Trainwreck Horns. After contacting the duo, Shinyribs played its first gig with a horn section. Throughout the wedding set, an energy and chemistry began to take shape between “the core” and the Tijuana Trainwreck.
Russell was so impressed by the addition of horns that he recruited them for another performance at the Lone Star Music Awards the following night. After that, Russell knew the Shinyribs needed permanent brass.
“Afterwards, I said, ‘Y’all just need to join the band. This needs to happen all the time,’” Russell recalled. “I was a little afraid about how I would I afford them. Once we added the horns, our fees went up. We started selling more tickets, and things just got better, because the product was better.”
The addition of the Tijuana Trainwreck Horns was so dynamic that it changed the course of “Okra Candy.” In fact, the horns almost kept Russell from releasing the album, forcing him to greatly expand his “aesthetic vision” for the band. He didn’t think the pre-horn tracks mingled well with the tracks including the brass.
“The album’s producer, George Reeves, convinced me to put it out and just release another record,” Russell said. “My thinking was to scrap and start again, and make a record that reflected who the band was, but I would’ve had the same issue.”
The issue concerned Russell’s desire to add harmonies to the Shinyribs’ sound. He says he always enjoyed the harmonic aspect of The Gourds’ music, but felt his fellow Shinyribs members were not proficient enough with vocal harmonies to add them to the mix.
Russell knew Shinyribs needed a feminine touch, courtesy of a pair of female backup singers — The Shiny Soul Sisters, comprising Sally Allen, whose vocal work has been included on all of Shinyribs’ albums, and Alice Spencer. While the duo completed his swamp pop dream, Russell was still apprehensive. More members meant more expenses.
“I certainly sweated that,” Russell said. “For a while, I wasn’t touring with them, because I didn’t know if I could put that many people in the band or afford. Eventually, it got to where I couldn’t do a gig without them. They became indispensable.”
Russell and his talented army have been laying down tracks at the historic SugarHill Recording Studios, which has hosted legends such as Lightnin’ Hopkins and The Big Bopper. With Grammy winner Jimbo Mathus in the producer’s chair, Shinyribs has been working up tracks for its upcoming album “I Got Your Medicine,” which will be released in February.
Russell dealt the public a serious tease with a 30-second promo on YouTube featuring the hook for the album’s title track.
“With this new record, I think that I’ve finally caught up to the speed that the band is changing,” Russell said. “The records have always lagged behind, because we’ve changed while records are being made. It’s been a pretty fast evolution. The new record is my swamp pop record. It’s formed by that style and idea.”
The Azalea City will soon have a chance to witness Russell’s dream fulfilled, with an evening of swamp pop straight from the city that helped make the genre great. The “Gin & Juice” crowd, however, should put any nostalgic expectations on hold. Russell describes himself as a non-nostalgic person who prefers to move forward.
The countrified version of “Gin & Juice” was left with The Gourds, and Russell has no plans for a permanent revival of that band. But his obsession with late ‘90s/early 2000s urban sounds sometimes infiltrates Shinyribs’ live shows. Russell says he loves to include tunes from T. Pain, TLC, Genuwine and R. Kelly in his live sets. Otherwise, Shinyribs’ Callaghan’s show will be the only chance to sample the band’s new sounds before their new album’s release.
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