Talk about moving fast! Kentucky mandolinist Shawn Brock was inspired in February to start a new bluegrass band. Now in August he’s got the band, Shotgun Holler, and a record label contract with Lonesome Day Records.
Of course it helps that he’s known Lonesome Day’s Randall Deaton since before the label was founded, and that he’s recorded in Deaton’s Boonesville, KY studio a few times already. But it was their material, and their willingness to take chances with song choices and subject matter that caught the label’s attention.
“We don’t really fit the typical bluegrass mold of today, says Brock. “Instrumentally we are pretty recognizable as bluegrass. We’re using the traditional bluegrass instruments – banjo, guitar, upright bass, mandolin, and fiddle. Where we tend to cross into other areas is the material that we choose, which can be very non-traditional. Lyrically, all of the songs aren’t necessarily wholesome.”
But they aren’t necessarily dishonorable, either. These guys just aren’t afraid to tackle stories from the seamier sides of life.
Here’s a video compilation of several of their songs from a recent live show.
Brock says that he felt compelled to start the group after an especially irritating listening session.
“I was listening to a bluegrass radio station and it was kind of like a volcano was building up inside of me. It seemed like people were cutting this watered down sterile material, singing about the same subject matter and no one was trying to sound different. I listened to five songs and couldn’t tell one artist from another.
I have been playing bluegrass for 23 years, and in the ’90s I knew every artist who came on just by their sound. Blue Highway has a great distinctive sound, which is vastly different from the classic sound of the Bluegrass Album Band. Both are favorites of Shotgun Holler members, but each unit had their own thing going.
I called friend and former band member from the group Blue and Lonesome, Matt Jones, and I said, ‘I’m sick of hearing singers and pickers imitate each other and cover songs that were just recorded 3 years ago. Let’s put a band together and do what we’ve always tried to do, be different.’ His words to me were, ‘Man, I’ve just been waiting on you.’ “
Sounds like the marker has been laid down.
Matt and Shawn added Gil Benson on fiddle, Rod Lunger on bass, and Donnie Stevens on banjo, with Jones handling guitar and lead vocals. They are headed to the studio later this month to record their first album, with Jim VanCleve producing.
We’ll be watching for the next chapter in the story of Shotgun Holler. It would seem that they have high expectations.