The Shootouts – Stampede (Soundly) Album Review

Stampede is The Shootouts’ third album and is released on the eve of their Grand Ole Opry debut in Nashville, the Mecca for country music artists which parallels in stature and importance the Apollo Theatre for African American artists.

The four-piece band are rooted in classic traditional styles of music and mix western swing, honky-tonk, some bluegrass and the Bakersfield sound, and surprisingly at times come up with pop.

First two albums Quickdraw and Bullseye received accolades and enthusiastic support from listeners and inside the Americana music industry.

That attracted Ray Benson, founder and music legend of Asleep at the Wheel to come on board as producer, assisted by Sam Seifert who is the present-day producer for that band.    

The core four-piece band. Ryan Humbert lead vocals and guitar, Brian Poston lead guitar, Emily Bates harmony vocals and Kevin McManus bass.

Just as many again add to the extended family of the Shootouts. This includes Dylan Gomez drums, Ryan McDermott bass and Al Moss guitar.

Moss contributed one of the best songs on the album, Angel’s Work. With acoustic guitar and fiddle sounding bright and crystalline in the mix, this is the most soulful. As Humbert sings this, you can hear the spectre of George Jones in his yearning. Also Charlie Rich when you hear the line no direction home.

Close behind is Anywhere but Here with Buddy Miller. Ringing jangle guitars begin. A steel or resonator guitar with slide at halfway. It goes from Texas Buddy Holly doing western swing and ends up as a bright pop number.

The band hail from Akron, Ohio. Diverse and multi-faceted as that town is for American music, it would not be known as a place for classic style country music. The key is diversity though, and famous sons Devo could drop a song like Gut Feeling/ Slap Your Mammy which does end up as a barn-dance rave-up.

Another guest legend is Marty Stuart. Country royalty, having been in bands with Lester Flatt and Johnny Cash, before going solo and guesting with everyone worth knowing. Plays mandolin on Better Things to Do. It leads the album, but the better acoustic version closes it out.

One Step Forward is the closest to the traditional western swing of the great Bob Wills bands. Benson and quite a few of the Asleep band are there. Very slick and flat in production, which is the distinctive hallmark of the style. Fast picking guitar solos and jazzy vocal encouragements. The baritone voice I am assuming is Benson.

I’ll Never Need Anyone More is all Nashville countrypolitan. Raul Malo of the Mavericks adds soulful backing vocals.

It is hard to hear Emily Bates voice in the mix, and that is a problem because at times Humbert’s can be a little underwhelming. They can sound like a slick bunch of session musicians in search of a distinctive voice.

Coming Home by Going Away is where you can hear her distinctly, after a few listens. A rockabilly song which moves into country pop and also has a nice tear drop pedal steel. Or a slide dobro.

Stampede is fast and furious flat-picking, combining bluegrass flash with western swing. Dazzling technique but somehow it lacks heart and fails to move me.

Tomorrow’s Knocking has Jim Lauderdale on board but is generally undistinguished.

Not a completely satisfying album but those high points are great. The band have said that they make country music for people that don’t like country. There’s the heart of the matter. Jerry Lee Lewis felt you should be as hot as hell or as cold as ice. Lukewarm does not cut it.

Or, quoting Robbie Robertson,  ‘Music should never be harmless’.

Rev Orange Peel

Click here to watch the 13th Floor MusicTAlk interview with The Shootouts