In 2016 it can be hard to be a country music fan. The lines of the genre have been skewed damn near beyond recognition, melding into an amorphous blend of pop and electronic with a slight southern twang. Sure there’s always going to be a place for pop tropes in any genre, but it leaves a sour taste in some folks mouth. These folks yearn for the songs of yesteryear, they crave honesty and vulnerability that’s not tightly shoved into cut-off jeans and hanging by the river in a pick-up truck. Perhaps that’s why folks like Sturgill Simpson and Chris Stapleton are picking up so much steam in the modern music landscape. There’s grit and grime here, it feels like Hank, it feels like Conway, most importantly it feels timeless. That’s why these same people are getting so excited about the music of Sara Shook. And at the rate that she’s going, I wouldn’t be surprised if you start hearing her name tossed in the mix of modern country greats in a few short years.
Sara Shook is based out of Chapel Hill and recently was thrust into the limelight with her most recent full-length, Sidelong, released in 2015. Sidelong has received love from local outlets like Indy Week, naming it their second favorite album of the year, and has led to incredible national acclaim for the songwriter. Sara Shook wears her whiskey-soaked heart on her sleeve, and it’s hard not to feel connected once her heartfelt country anthems hit your ears. Sidelong is filled with personality, it’s as dark and dreary as it is bright and quirky. “The Nail” is a perfect example of this, it bounces with a typical country swagger, but the content is filled with Shook rambling on an alcoholic love, crooning that “You’re never ever home, and when you are/what was once a happy home becomes a bar.”
Shook’s music isn’t 100% traditional, there’s certainly tinges of punk rock thrown into the mix and a lot of really captivating percussive rhythms that gives each song tons of head room and allows the brilliantly mixed guitars to slice through the tracks like a razorblade. As someone that wouldn’t really classify himself as a country fan, Sara Shook has made me a believer with her unapologetic tunes. Sara Shook will be performing at Kings Barcade in Raleigh, NC tomorrow night alongside the stellar folk outfit Laney Jones & The Spirits and Ellis Dyson & The Shambles. Purchase tickets in advance at Kings’ website and check out Sara’s video for “Dwight Yoakam” below: