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Issue: March 2008

By Jason Ashcraft

The Donkey Tonk is Coming From The Den

Musicians are one of the most fascinating species within the human race, totally unpredictable and always innocent in their explanations and the way they lead their offstage lives. This is coming from someone who has to corral them and get them to focus on something other than writing or playing music. Understand my point of view now?

Leading up to my visits with The Shinerunners, I had been listening to their most recent demo, "Alfresco," for about a three weeks. The recording quality is slightly below average but that is easily overlooked by the quality of the songwriting. They also released a full-length album, Live at Dark Secret Studios,that comes equipped with a match and a black cat firecracker in case you don't like it. All bands should do that. I'd like to see how many albums I'd be kicking around in some venue parking lot.

The Shinerunners are Scott Mertz (vocals, guitar), Jeremy York (keyboards, bongo drums) James "Fender" Vize (Bass), Freddy Wethington (lead guitar and a mean 'chopper' at that) and Phillip Longo (drums). Some of their former bands include Cornbread Mafia (Mertz), Aqua Jones and Sera Tonen (York). Believe it or not, everyone is a rookie.

The opening track, "Outlaw Women," is a jamming country rock tune about - duh - outlaw women and learning to keep your mouth shut. It has a mean hook and a chorus that resonates a few minutes after you're done listening to it. It opens with a Mellencamp-ish guitar lick. It's about as mainstream as The Shinerunners unintentionally get, meaning they write their music with the intent to appease anyone with the record company crowd.

One other tune, "Little White Churches From Hell," is an idiosyncratic jam with a lot of elements of jazz in it. It too has a well-written chorus that, oddly enough, isn't revealed in its entirety until the end the song. Like a wine with a good finish, this tune ends on a strong note. Maybe I shouldn't have revealed that.

They roll up old-school country & western, rhythm & blues, jazz and a touch of soul (mainly by Mertz's vocals) all together and what you get is something they refer to as 'Donkey Tonk.' Then at random instances, Jeremy will inject some reggae in the mix by pimp slapping his bongo leather skins. Yeah, that's virtually every genre that we have been served in the past 20 years. They mix them like beer and whiskey. Smooth with a mean finish. Works for me and it will probably be well received by you, too, especially if you're still reading up to this point.

So what's the bottom line? The Shinnerunners are just likable enough to be incredibly successful, but only if they choose to be. Although I could definitely see a record company wanting throw some money at them (if there were any record companies still doing that), they seem rather content in their current state, although Jeremy's words are to the exact contrary, "I want to be a f***ing ROCK STAR."

But only if they choose it that way. They are in control of their own musical destiny, how ever they decide to define it.


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