Editor’s note: Occasionally I will completely mess up our reviews system and accidentally send the same album to two different writers. This is one such occasion – fortunately both writers essentially agreed so here are our two (!) write-ups of this album, so good we reviewed it twice!
A fine mix of country, string band, honky tonk and Western swing which should be a blast live.
The Shootouts’ last record, ‘Bullseye’, released in 2021, placed highly in the Americana charts and garnered a fair chunk of critical acclaim as well as exposure on streaming services and digital radio.
Shortly after its release they were introduced to Asleep At The Wheel frontman Ray Benson and within the year they were back in the studio with Benson and co-producer Sam Siefert to record their third record ‘Stampede’.
The album sees the core of The Shootouts (Ryan Humbert – vocals, guitar; Emily Bates – vocals; Brian Poston – lead guitar; and Kevin McManus – bass) plus regular collaborators Dylan Gomez (drums), Ryan MacDermott (bass) and Al Moss (guitar) supplemented by a host of guest musicians including members of Asleep At The Wheel, Marty Stuart, Raul Malo, Jim Lauderdale and Buddy Miller.
The Shootouts hail from Akron, NE Ohio’s rubber capital, better known as the home of Devo and The Black Keys rather than country music. Stampede was recorded at Son of Moondog Studios in nearby Kent which has a large folk, country and bluegrass scene. It’s sometimes easy with star-studded collaborations for the guests to overshadow the central act. That doesn’t happen here which may be credit to Benson and Siefert but is mainly down to the performances from the band themselves.
‘Stampede’ is bookended by electric and acoustic versions of ‘Better Things To Do‘ which features Stuart on mandolin. The electric opener is a real twangfest while the closer has a distinctly bluegrass feel. ‘Anywhere But Here’ with Buddy Miller is a country rocker driven by the drum track and has some nice guitar/ pedal steel interplay. It’s a gentle vibe takes it down a notch from the first track. Third track ‘One Step Forward’, written by Moss as a commentary on the music industry, sees The Shootouts and Asleep At The Wheel shoulder to shoulder and brings Texas swing to NE Ohio. It was the lead off single with video
Raul Malo joins the band as a guest vocalist on ‘I’ll Never Need Anyone More’ which has a plaintive lyric and a sweet blend of keyboards, guitar and pedal steel in the music. ‘Run For Cover’ is described as Dave Edmunds inspired; a 50s style rocker with some rocking guitar, a raunchy sax and rock & roll piano. Sounds like an excellent show closer or encore.
The sixth song ‘Coming Home By Going Away’ is a slower track which could almost be a solo acoustic interlude but is bedded on a soft country rock backing.It’s a breath well taken as the instrumental title track lives up to its name with some cracking work from Poston’s guitar and Dennis Ludiker’s fiddle. Jim Lauderdale steps up for ‘Tomorrows Knockin’’ which lives up to its Bakersfieldesque billing somewhere on a line from Owens to Alvin. ‘Feelin’ Kind Of Lonely Tonight’ drops back into the 50s sound but with more of a swing than a flat out rocker. It feels like it needs some radio crackle to hear it in the right context. The mood stays in a similar if slightly more country vein for ‘Must Be A Broken Heart’ and a fun lyric. ‘Angel’s Work’ which follows has an introspective lyric flitting between ruefulness and regret at a real life lived with some lovely dobro, fiddle and pedal steel.
It’s a mix of country, string band, honky tonk and Western swing which should be a blast live.
Excellent traditional country rock with wide appeal (Review by Andy Raw).
Fans of The Shootouts apparently say that their music is country music for people who don’t like country. Listening to this album of top-quality catchy country rock, you can see why. It is crammed full of lively songs with great hooks and melodies which will have general appeal. They come from Akron, Ohio, near Lake Erie and close to the border with Canada, so not a place normally associated with country music. Despite this, the group members seem to have a huge passion for this music which is communicated very strongly by this album.
This is their third album in the space of four years, which they started recording only months after the release of the second, ‘Bullseye’. The rapid production of the album came about as a result of meeting the frontman of Asleep At The Wheel, Ray Benson, who agreed to produce this album. They just didn’t want to miss out on the opportunity of working with him.
The record is full of country licks and some high pace country picking from their excellent lead guitarist Brian Poston. He is ably supported by lead singer and guitarist Ryan Humbert and bassist Kevin McManus. Emily Bates teams up with Humbert on vocals to make a more interesting sound than with just one vocalist. ‘Shootouts extended family members’ fill in with other instruments such as drums, steel guitar, and fiddle, including long-time mentor Al Moss, who wrote a number of the songs, on guitar.
However, The Shootouts have been lucky enough to have got guest appearances from country royalty on some of the tracks. Marty Stuart, who played with Johnny Cash and who had a very successful solo career including his own country music TV show, plays bluegrass mandolin on the excellent opener ‘Better Things to Do’. Buddy Miller, Jim Lauderdale, and Raul Malo from the Mavericks also contribute on other tracks.
These different artists showcase the fact that, although the music could be categorised as country rock, there are many different styles on show. For example, the Raul Malo track ‘I’ll Never Need Anyone More’ could be from a Mavericks album, ‘Feelin’ Kind of Lonely Tonight’ is honky-tonk but ‘One Step Forward’ which includes Benson and members of Asleep At The Wheel is western swing. The fabulous rocking ‘Run For Cover’ has Jerry Lee Lewis-style piano and horns driving the song along.
Lyrically, the songs mostly cover stories of heartache in a traditional country way, for example on ‘Must Be a Broken Heart’:
‘‘’Cause I may not be a doctor but I’ve learned to read the signs,
And this ain’t the condition I was in when you were mine,
I guess we I should have known that it would end here from the start,
Darling, this must be a broken heart”
The words on the album aren’t sophisticated but are refreshingly straightforward and ones that people can easily relate to. ‘Stampede’ is an album that you will like if into traditional country music and probably even if you are not. It looks as if The Shootouts would be well worth going to see if they ever come over to the UK.