SAT. SEPT. 30, 2017 – SHAKE RUSSELL / MICHAEL HEARNE

  • By mrsmusic40
  • August 3, 2017
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SHAKE RUSSELL / MICHAEL HEARNE

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Shake Russell

was born during 1948 in Independence, Missouri a town located on the eastern outskirts of Kansas City. Aged eight he was introduced to the trombone, an instrument Shake went on to play in Junior and High School orchestras. Russell’s father was a minister, so it’s hardly surprising that from an early age Shake sang in the church choir. For American musicians born during the late forties, early February 1964 was a significant date – The Beatles, made their first US trip. When I interviewed Shake in Kerrville, Texas during 1992 he remarked that the event was “indelibly stamped in my [musical] psyche.” His ‘hobby’ now possessed career prospects.

Aged sixteen, Russell joined the local Top 40 covers band Odds and Ends. A short time later, armed only with his acoustic guitar, Russell began performing in Kansas City coffee houses, a move prompted by his desire to pen and perform original songs. It was during this period that Russell met Dana Cooper, another Missouri born songwriter. In 1970 Shake joined the [then] Kansas City based group, Ewing Street Times. Led by John Vandiver, a Dallas born Texan, in the summer of 1972 the band relocated to Houston. Concurrently, many of Vandiver’s boyhood musical associates were making their home on the shores of Lake Travis, North West of Austin – sic. Steven Fromholz, Michael (Martin) Murphey and the late B.W. Stevenson [d. 1988]. Ever transient, Vandiver and Co. moved to Austin. During the ensuing the years, apart from local gigs, the Times – John Vandiver [guitar], Michael Mashkes [guitar], Billy Bucher [drums] and Shake Russell [bass] – toured on the Mid-West College circuit and also performed in Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas.

Russell’s tune “Deep In The West” debuted on Vol. 2 of the 1973 Kerrville Folk Festival Live Highlights album. Over the ensuing decades, Russell has been a regular Kerrville performer. According to Shake, “My songwriting influences at this stage included Bob Dylan, The Beatles, Tim Hardin, Leonard Cohen, Joni Mitchell, Paul Simon, Randy Newman and Stephen Stills.” Ewing Street Times split up in 1975. On the recording front, B.W. Stevenson included Russell’s “Temper, Temper” on his 1975 Warner Brothers album “We Be Sailin’.” Subsequent covers include “Deep In The West” by Waylon Jennings [“Hanging Tough”], “You’ve Got A Lover” by Ricky Skaggs [“Heartaches And Highways”], “You Wouldn’t Know Me” by Gary P. Nunn [“Nobody But Me”] and “Hard To Find A Smile” by Bill and Bonnie Hearne [“Smilin’”]. Following the demise of the Times, accompanied by Michael Mashkes, Russell headed for Chicago. Based out of the windy city, John Prine and the late Steve Goodman were beginning to gain national recognition. The streets of Chicago were not paved with gold and the pair soon moved on to New York.

Breaking into the NYC music scene proved difficult and Russell eventually phoned Vandiver with the news that he was contemplating moving back to Missouri and giving up music. Vandiver invited Shake to join him in Houston, where the former had become an established solo act. Accepting John’s invitation, in time Shake also began performing as a solo act in Space City’s clubs. When the more progressive local radio stations began playing Russell’s demo tapes on air, Shake decided to form a band. Concurrent with Shake’s decision, Dana Cooper arrived in Houston. During the early seventies based in California, Cooper had scored a record deal with Jac Holzman’s Elektra label. Cooper’s self-titled, solo debut was released in 1973.

An August 1977 live radio performance, on Houston’s KLOL FM, by Russell [assisted by Cooper] was included on the eight-song mini album “Songs On The Radio” released by the Old No 7 label. The disc featured half a dozen Russell originals, a Cooper composed title cut and the co-write “When Are You Comin’ Home ?” Since the mid-seventies Brovsky had guided Jerry Jeff Walker’s career and that of the Lost Gonzo Band. Through Nunn, Russell met Michael Brovsky who was in the process of setting up Southcoast Records. Produced by the duo, the eleven cut “Shake Russell/Dana Cooper Band” album was an early 1981 Southcoast release. Walter Hyatt’s “Rollin’ My Blues” apart, Cooper and Russell contributed the remaining tunes, solo or as co-writers. Sadly, the label folded soon afterwards.

Later that year, issued by the Twin Dreams label, Shake and Dana put together “Comin’ Home,” a collection that featured studio tracks by the Shake Russell/Dana Cooper Band, the Michael Marcoulier Band and John Vandiver. Released by Austin Records, the debut album by the Shake Russell Band album, “Time Spent,” appeared in June 1985. The band featured Rusty Burns and Jack Saunders. By the time “Denim & Pearls” appeared three years later Shake had formed a friendship with a young Houston musician named Clint Black. Black opened shows for Russell, and the pair also began collaborating as songwriters.

Shake’s band broke up toward the close of the 1980’s and he began performing as duo with Saunders. Between 1989-1995 the pair cut a quintet of albums for the Jalapeno Record label. In addition to the latter, with the addition of Cooper, “The Thrill Of Love” appeared in 1993. Songs featured on the latter found Russell collaborating with Jack Saunders, Clint Black and Chuck Hamrick. Russell’s “Ballad Of Angus Mustang” memorialized the late John Vandiver [d. 1985]. Dana Cooper’s 1992 album “Stone By Stone” was also a Jalapeno release to which Shake and Jack contributed, while the same year Shake was a backing vocalist on Melissa Javors’ album “The Real Woman In Me.”

In 1983 Shake was commissioned by the Texas State University, San Marcos to write “River of Innocence” for a documentary produced by the university. Three years later he penned “Traveling Texas” as a theme song for the Texas State Sesquicentennial. Russell is a two-time recipient of BMI’s “Million Air” award for the Clint Black recordings of “Put Yourself In My Shoes” and “One More Payment,” both co-written with Clint, and a four-time recipient of the BMI Writer’s Award. The Texas Music Association named Shake the 2004 Texas Music Awards Entertainer of the Year [and again in 2008] and nominated his song “Cowboy Coffee” for the 2007 Texas Music Awards Best New Song.

During the closing years of the twentieth century and into the new millennium, Shake released a series of solo albums, plus the in concert set “Island Night” with his old buddy Dana. In more recent times he reformed the Shake Russell Band with veteran players Doug Floyd [mandolin] and Mike Roberts [acoustic bass]. The latter aggregation recorded the CD/DVD set “Live @ Gruene Hall” during the summer of 2007.

 

MICHAEL HEARNE

How do you say “Acoustic Southwestern Americana Musical Guitar Genius” in just two words? Michael Hearne, that’s how. Since the 1970s, this native Dallas Texan has strolled down a musical path inspired by the great folk and country singer-songwriters who typify and have characterized the Americana “roots” scene. Even minus the undeniable influence of the musical giants he admires and respects to this day, Michael simply had no choice when it came to deciding to be who he is.

This prodigious musical talent was blatantly obvious in Hearne as a young kid. With minimal formal training as a child, coupled with hours of music immersion and hardcore practice, his destiny was forever tangled in “wire and wood.” Hearne had his hands on his first real guitar by age seven and by 12, Michael was a fixture at parties and local homespun events, not realizing that this period was actually dress rehearsal for what would prove to be an ever-evolving and rewarding musical career.

Michael continues to leave an indelible mark on his audiences not only with his signature “Michael Hearne” guitar sound, but also with songs and stories that are rich in lyrical prose, imagery and humor.

He is a songwriter’s songwriter, cut from the same cloth that propels an artist on a committed journey to experiencing life as a series of creative events and fulfilments. Even though the musical high road is typically scattered with twists of fate and a few u-turns along the way (all of which make for great lyrics), Michael continues to forge ahead by just keeping on doing what he loves.

Longevity has yielded Hearne a vast fan base that is solid and ever expanding. Anyone who has ever grooved to one of Hearne’s impeccable guitar leads or kicked up their heels to one of the many two stepping tunes played by him or with his band, South by Southwest, has also probably been caught singing along at some point in the night, note for note, with that beautifully distinctive voice that can never be mistaken for anyone else.

Hearne’s never met an audience he didn’t like and fans quickly become repeat offenders on the house concert, music festival, and club scenes, as both the man and the music are extraordinarily genuine, inspirational, and entertaining.

A consistent winner of the “Best of Taos” awards for performer and singer for more than 10 years, Hearne’s songwriting credits are impressive. Awards include Song of the Year, Album of the Year, and Best Production at the 2001 New Mexico MIC AWARDS, for “A Taos Christmas Eve,” 2002. He has penned songs for Jerry Jeff Walker and Gary P. Nunn (“Lesson to be Learned from Love”) and his New Mexico anthem, “New Mexico Rain,” recorded by his uncle and aunt, Bill and Bonnie Hearne, and country music legend Johnny Rodriguez.

His critically acclaimed CD Sight and Sound – 11 songs written about 11 different works of art – won seven awards at The New Mexico Music Awards, making him the biggest winner in their history. This CD includes the song “The Songwriter”, co-written with Grammy winners Mentor Williams and Andy Byrd. Michael Hearne has also written songs with his good friends Shake Russell, Keith Sykes, and many others.

His followup album, The High Road to Taos, also received critical acclaim, with some discriminating reviewers declaring it to be some of his finest work.

“Michael Hearne’s record embodies all that I love about New Mexico. Between his whiskey velvet voice, the evocative songwriting and gorgeous musical production, I found myself profoundly aching for my favorite place in the world” – Eliza Gilkyson

“Once in a while there comes a recording I never tire of playing. ‘My Funny Valentine’ by Chat Baker comes to mind. ‘Come Away With Me’ by Norah Jones is another. It’s like they were recorded only yesterday even though it might be years since they were first released. In January of 2008, I heard Michael Hearne’s High Road To Taos and I knew from the second or third time I played it, and that’s been a lot of plays ago, that this was one of those records I’ll always play and every time I do it will be as fascinating, alluring and inspiring as the first time I played it. It’s a very real classic and it’s my hope it gets the wide audience it so richly deserves.” – Keith Sykes

Just after its release in December 2007, The High Road to Taos landed a coveted position on the KTAOS Top Ten recordings chart for that year. Michael Hearne is now being heard around the world thanks to the internet, old-fashioned regional and national airwaves and because of the legion of loyal fans who continue to request and support “Taos’s own, Mr. Michael Hearne.” A dedicated and eclectic fan base, which spills across borders and state lines and represents a smorgasbord of musical tastes, keeps Hearne perfectly aligned with the spotlight.

“His voice, style and outstanding musicianship blend into one beautiful gem. It’s no wonder Michael’s work will stand the test of time, as he remains the artist who captures the musical essence of the southwest. Like it’s second nature. That’s because it is.”

He and his band South By Southwest (a.k.a. SxSW) are best described as country swing/southwestern Americana. Loyal fans who continue to pack dance halls, clubs and house concert venues listen and two step the night away to Hearne and the sounds of long time band members Carmen Acciaioli, a musical master of the steel guitar, fiddle, mandolin, dobro, and hammered dulcimer; and the extremely talented Zeke Severenson on stand up and electric bass.

Today, Michael is often found touring across the southwest with fellow songwriter Shake Russell (with Mike Roberts on bass) in support of Michael & Shake’s recently released duo album Only As Strong As Your Dreams. In addition to the new duo album Michael and Shake each released brand new solo albums, Red River Dreams(Michael Hearne) and Little Bright Band of Light (Shake Russell). Michael is also the promoter of the annual Big Barn Dance Music Festival held in Taos, NM each fall. For more information about Michael Hearne’s Big Barn Dance visit BigBarnDance.com.

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