Local Hop

Boots & Shorts.

Boots & Shorts.

Boots & Shorts. The Stillhouse Sessions (Red Bandit Productions). You look up and bassist-guitarist Aaron Chamberlain is giggling into the microphone as he sings. The next time you glance that way, fellow bassist-guitarist Kevin Morel is too. Meanwhile, mandolin and banjo LOCAL HOP player Mike Mawhinney is chucking away at his smaller instruments, with all three harmonizing and smiling as they sway. The personality is so evident on this record, complete with laughs left in the mix, it feels as if you’re sitting beside the trio as they run through an album of classic-style bluegrass with a modern twist.

The obvious influences of the gritty Old Crow Medicine Show sound are audible, but not limiting for this local favorite. Longer tracks like “Sleepwalker,” “September” and “Little Maggie Mae” give fingers room to fly, and the sound of chatter mid-song in “Jack & Coke” creates a perfect barroom feel for the jam. The lengthy songs can be taken two ways: as wandering tunes or accurate recreations of a typical night playing an exhausting three-hour local gig. The latter seems to be what the boys are after and it works to their advantage. They can take a song along, let it go and bring it back without losing momentum—an important trait for band survival and a pleasure to listen to. “Saddleback Ridge” and “Muddy Puddle Breakdown” are blistering (I can feel my fingers callusing as I listen) and slower songs like “No Luck” demonstrate softer tendencies.

This album is one of the most inviting you’ll come across as well as one of the most impressive when it comes to showing three guys producing the sonic spectrum of an army. Boots & Shorts are small, but mighty. For more information, visit

Hobo Graffiti

Hobo Graffiti

Hobo Graffiti (independent). Brand New Sin offshoot Hobo Graffiti has finally put an EP debut down for the masses. And thank God, because it’s awesome. The intersection of hard rock and rockabilly undertones works beautifully for a band that got its start as an out-of-comfort-zone experiment. They picked up an upright bass, cocktail drum kit, male and female vocals, harmonies and blended acoustic and electric while covering songs from the Stray Cats to the Sex Pistols, ZZ Top, Bob Dylan, Pearl Jam, and a long list of other groups that you’d think couldn’t possibly jive. After cutting their teeth with their weird mix of styles, they wrote a few tunes of their own, went into Subcat Studios and laid down a few tracks with Patrick MacDougall (a man with an impressive resume, including Mick Jagger, Joe Walsh and Kenny Wayne Shepherd).

The result is five tracks that put all their strangeness and talent on display. Tommy Matkowski’s guitar chops are full force on “Way Down Low” and Heather Jones’ vocals carry “Darling Dear” with the kind of strength and beauty female pipes are perfect for. Raspy and firm, her voice pairs ideally with Kris Wiechmann’s singing over the ever-steady rhythm section of Kevin Dean (percussion) and Chuck Kahl (upright bass).

The energy of this group goes a long way, apparent by their ever-filling schedule. They host an EP release party at Three Fat Guys Irish Pub, 3898 New Court Ave., on Friday, Sept. 27, 9 p.m. They’ll also headline the K-Rock Zombiefest Halloween show on Saturday, Oct. 26, at the Landmark Theatre, 362 S. Salina St., with Pale Green Stars and Bloodandstationwagons. Check out the album at or

Ron Spencer Band

Ron Spencer Band

Ron Spencer Band. Soul Reason (Real Gone Records). Although the band is named after its smoking guitarist, Ron Spencer is one of those fantastic frontmen who doesn’t hog the spotlight. The perfect vocals of bluesman Mark Gibson and the fiery keys of special guest Mark Nanni often steal the show, and Spencer shows his good taste by taking a back seat on some tunes and slaying others. “Lookin’ For A Woman” lets him shine with quick rips, “Six of One” lets him dig in, and “Move Back To Missouri” is the CD’s standout, allowing everyone to show off on the grinding rocker. “Workin’ on Her Sins” is a standard blues tune that could fit in several bands’ repertoires and “Ain’t Got Nothin’” hits an irresistible Elvis Presley-type swing. Additions from Dan “Cato” Eaton on sax and Mick Walker on guitar also help the full and textured sound of the group.

The album is made for dancing and the band—Spencer, Gibson, bassist Jay Gould and Ross Moe on drums—will prove it all night during their CD release party on Friday, Sept. 27, 9 p.m., at Shifty’s, 1401 Burnet Ave. For more, visit

—Jessica Novak


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