By Greg Hartman
In the long history of rock and roll, having a venue owner pass out free shots of whiskey is definitely a rare occurrence. Combine the drink with a piece of fried chicken and it may be truly unique occurrence. That is, unless you are watching Shotgun Hodown play at Mesa Theater, where venue owner Brett Strong has been found passing out the odd combination during the song “Chicken and Whiskey”. Anyone who has followed the band’s path for the past 8 years knows to expect only the unexpected and be prepared for an amazing show.
Shotgun Hodown began with the duo of Bobby Hodown on guitar and Amanda Jones on keyboard. Each wrote their own lyrics and parts. Amanda used her classical piano training to match Bobby’s psychedelic rock and reggae influences. The duo then expanded their sound, adding the punk rock drumming of Billy T. Billy, the alternative rock bassist D’Ray Canaday, and classically trained trombone and synth player Brian Collings. Their varied influences and skills combined to create a soundscape that draws comparisons to a Tom Waits fronted New Orleans funeral parade that has a few disco sections. Then there’s the songs that get even more unique.
In 2011, the band captured their unique blend of sounds on the aptly titled Necro-Nuclear High Desert Outlaw. Standout tracks include “Electric Moonshine”, a mid tempo piano and trombone dirge, “Tiny Little Hands”, an upbeat 60’s rock song, and “Zombie Disaster”, where Amanda channels a mix of grunge and disco. The only similarity to the songs is their dissimilarity, each a unique mix of instruments and influences.
The unique sound and attitude has opened some odd doors for Shotgun Hodown. They have played an opening set prior to a showing of Texas Chainsaw Massacre at the Avalon Theater. In Telluride, they performed in an abandoned mine turned artist collective. They regularly play an April 20th show with Jack + Jill at Mesa Theater, as well as open for bands like Reverend Horton Heat, Koffin Kats, and Everlast. They also play many headlining shows, including a 2014 west coast tour. The band easily fits with a variety of genres, while defying being locked into one.
Since releasing their first album, the band has continued to write new music. While most of the first album was written by Rob or Amanda, the new material draws from all members. This has lead to a fuller sound that highlights each musician’s strengths. “Sunny Day” is a laid back, wandering track with a surprise tempo change that allows Amanda to provide dreamy backing vocals. The aforementioned “Chicken and Whiskey” is a raucous celebration featuring Brian raging on his trombone. “Barbara” has Amanda on lead vocals, while the band walks the line between new wave and alternative. “Skin” is a psychedelic hard rocker that allows Bobby and D’Ray to explore where their favorite genres crossover.
Those songs and more will be released on the band’s follow up album, Long Gone. The band recorded the album in a cabin utilizing Bobby’s experience running sound at Mesa Theater. Joe Franklin was brought into play the musical saw on two tracks, adding to the musical atmosphere. An all star collection of vocalists were brought in for a special final track including Ancient Mith, Talya Dewey, and Charles King. The final product was mastered by Taylor Riley and will be released to the public on March 10th. The cover art is credited to the talented Jeremy Ries and appropriately captures the spirit of the multi-genre album.
The March 10th release party at Mesa Theater promises to be a wild show. Shotgun Hodown will be joined by Talya Dewey, Wave Baby, and The Bronco Country. Tickets are $7 ahead of schedule or $10 at the door. Copies of Long Gone will be available and possibly a limited supply of chicken and whiskey.