92.1 The Wolf in Syracuse had a listening party for listeners at the Blue Spruce Lounge on October 14th, featuring city country originators Shotgun Wedding. Opening the show was Camille Rae and Nick Hickman, performing together. Both are talented Nashville artists in their own right, each with recorded work than receives air play on country music radio. They played a great set together going back and forth, playing each other’s radio singles and other songs. They were personable with the crowd and gave a little background on some of the songs.
And now for Shotgun Wedding. They craft a set list like a fine dinner menu with proper ups and downs, lights and darks, and crafted in such a way that you cannot find a “go get a beer” or “take a piss” song. They played almost every song off of their debut album, South of Somewhere, with key cover songs mixed in from country legends like Patsy Cline, Hank Williams, Ricky Skaggs, Miranda Lambert, just to name a few. This is a band that grabs you and holds your attention until the end comes, way too soon and 20 songs later. No lie.
You know that special something – that thing that you can’t quite put your finger on, but you either have IT or you don’t? Shotgun Wedding has overwhelming amounts of IT! 5 helpings to be exact. Each member fills their role so perfectly it’s undeniable. Borrowing Billy Joel’s rhythm section of bassist Andy Cichon and drummer Chuck Burgi? That gives your sound a foundation as solid as a brick shithouse. Wade Preston is simply mesmerizing when he goes off on keys. Even more mesmerizing when trading licks with guitarist Dennis DelGaudio who can play honkey tonk like he invented it. Dennis can also sing as well as he plays guitar and his voice just so happens to blend with Catherine Porter’s so perfectly it’s really indescribable . . . we’ll just leave it at all things beautiful. Add great songwriting and a stage presence that brings me right to the point of my babble.
As an outsider looking in, there was one thing that I couldn’t help but notice. The most important thing I can say about Shotgun Wedding and the biggest thing I noticed immediately within minutes is the level of professionalism of this band. It’s intense and almost palpable. They command the stage and hold the crowd right in the palm of their collective hand. Watching this got me to thinking – Camille Rae and Nick Hickman are extremely talented Nashville artists that have records that you hear on the radio. You know, Nashville – the mecca of country music – the place that produces the industry elite and not country chumps. In my mind, this automatically legitimizes what you’re doing to some degree. You take notes when you see a Nashville artist showing you how it’s done.
And then Shotgun Wedding brings you New York City country that was born in Brooklyn. They have great songs that hold true to traditional country and this crazy knack for grabbing the audience and holding their attention. This is derived from years of experience in many genres. Their stage presence holds something for any artist to learn from. That night, I couldn’t help think, “I wonder if Camille Rae and Nick Hickman are in the back watching and taking notes on this shit?” I’d have turned around and looked for myself, but I couldn’t peel my eyes from the stage for nothing, like I locked eyes with Medusa and was stuck in her death glare.
My point – am I witnessing a mild paradigm shift here? After all is said and done I feel strongly that all the artists in Nashville trying to make their way at this country thing ought to turn their head to the northeast and take some notes from the City Country playbook. Maybe Camille and Nick were watching. If they were, do you think they’ll take that back and share with their Nashville peers or keep it to themselves as their secret weapon?
I cannot urge you enough to go see Shotgun Wedding whenever you get a chance. If they are playing upstate, you can be sure Upstate Music and Food will be making noise about it. If you are ever in NYC, chances are good they may be playing somewhere nearby. Stay tuned to their website or Facebook pages for current news and tour dates. In the meantime, you can indulge in their debut album, South of Somewhere.
Author: George DiFabio
Photography: Jerrie DiFabio