Hold On To Your Heart – Shannon Slaughter

On January 24, Shannon Slaughter released a new album, Hold On To Your Heart, for Elite Circuit Records. On the following evening, Slaughter and County Clare (along with other personnel from the recording) convened at Nashville’s World Famous Station Inn for a CD release party. 

Slaughter, a veteran bluegrasser, has played with numerous professional bands (Lost and Found, Larry Stephenson, Lonesome River Band, Lou Reid and Carolina, and Grasstowne). This is his third solo project.

His latest, Hold On To Your Heart, is named for the title track, written by Boone Creek alum, Wes Golding. Slaughter first heard the tune on Lou Reid’s When It Rains CD. He later became a member of Reid’s band, so it seems fitting that his former bossman provided tenor, making the song come full circle for Slaughter.

“Though not a concept project,” Slaughter of Argo, AL, shared during the release party, “we got as many of our family (as possible) to be on this record.”

On the 18 song CD, the last three tunes feature his three young children: daughter, Rae, and sons, Jed and Call. The recording also includes vocals by his in-laws and mother. Featured heavily on the CD, and on stage, were the lead and harmony vocals of Slaughter’s wife, Heather. The couple’s photo graces the CD.

Nine of the songs were written or co-written by Slaughter. He included two of his co-writers, Ronnie Bowman and Shawn Lane, on the project providing vocals, with the latter adding some fiddle work. Though Bowman and Lane were not present for the release party, they shared their thoughts on Slaughter.

Ronnie Bowman said, “Shannon Slaughter’s Hold On To Your Heart is a wonderful collection… filled with great songs, stellar musicians, and heartfelt singing that blesses the soul.”

“Shannon has truly become of the best songwriters and singers in bluegrass music. Once again, he has proven it with this album. I always look forward to singing and playing with him on his projects,” added Shawn Lane.

During the release party, Slaughter explained, “We are trying to feature as many of the people that played on the CD tonight (as possible).”

Many of the musicians and vocalists on the project did take the stage. Mandolinist, Matt Wingate, and Station Inn fiddle man, Aubrey Haynie, along with the CD’s banjo pickers, Owen Piatt and Trevor Watson, who each played a set, provided a live version of the CD’s playlist. Kameron Keller was on hand to provide solid bass rhythms.

Other artists on the CD include: Ron Inscore (mandolin/vocals), Randy Khors (resophonic guitar), Jason Davis (banjo), and Doug Jernigan (pedal steel).

The first single from the project, Devil’s Broom, was co-written by Slaughter and Mark “Brink” Brinkman. A historical piece, it is about the Great Fire of 1910, a wildfire that burned three million acres in the western United States.

Another original number, Stack The Bodies High, a World War I song written by Tim Stafford and Slaughter, features a haunting chorus: “Stack them bodies high, boys, stack the bodies high. Leave room for the living, for we’re all about to die.” Based on the trench warfare typical of that conflict, it depicts how soldiers stacked their dead comrades’ bodies outside of trenches to protect themselves from sniper fire. 

A third song of yesteryear is Slaughter’s The Hole, a Civil War ghost story about hanging a man so tall that a hole had to be dug beneath him so his feet wouldn’t touch the ground.  

Man He’s Strong, penned by Slaughter, Roger Shepherd, and John Vandiver, is a heartfelt tune about overcoming odds. The lyrics were inspired by Shepherd’s special needs son and the strides that he has accomplished. Four different scenarios are presented in the song, each ending with the refrain, “But he knows God, and man, he’s strong.” 

Of the album’s lone guitar tune, Slaughter confessed, “I’d never written an instrumental. I worked on this for a year and a half.” 

He talked of where he was raised in north central Florida, and his grandparents’ community. “That’s where my music comes from so I named it Blitchville.” His hard driving composition gives . all the pickers a space to shine.

Another songwriter from the CD, Dale Felts, who co-wrote Damn Short List Of Things with Slaughter, attended the Station Inn show, having made the trek from Galax, VA, to Nashville, to attend the release party. Their song pays tribute some of Slaughter’s biggest influences: Merle Haggard, George Jones, Conway Twitty, and Keith Whitley. Haggard is also channeled by Terry Sanders, Slaughter’s father-in-law, who sings The Running Kind on the CD.

A trio of co-writers tag team on Lonesome Wind as Slaughter, Bowman, and Lane take turns singing the verses of the song.

This album would be a great addition to bluegrass enthusiasts’ audio collections.  

Hold On To Your Heart is available on CD from Shannon’s web site, or as a download from iTunes or CDBaby.

To view Slaughter’s CD Release Party recorded live, subscribe to Station Inn TV.

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About the Author

Sandy Hatley

Sandy Chrisco Hatley is a free lance writer for several NC newspapers and Bluegrass Unlimited magazine. As a teenager, she picked banjo with an all girl band called the Happy Hollow String Band. Today, she plays dobro with her husband's band, the Hatley Family.