The Shakes Turn It Up in Nashville

No other city has a music culture like Nashville, where incredible songwriters and performers labor anonymously by day and ply the trade they love, regardless of the financial reward, at night. A band that has been bubbling under the surface for years in Music City is The Shakes, a group fronted by Clint Woolsey, and whose edgy brand of rock is neither what Music Row is used to nor what might be going on at the alternative clubs around town, but something alternately heavier and deeper.

The Shakes might be compared to a heavier version of, say, Lynyrd Skynyrd, with crunchy overdriven guitars that have more to do with the hard rock legends of the ‘70s and ‘80s than with any country or rock performers of today, but with vocals and lyrics that are sung and not screamed. The band’s new album The Shakes is now available, with hard-driving anthemic pieces like “Hell I Waited,” “Cemetery Song” and “Love’s A Disease.” The influences of the members of The Shakes–Woolsey, Phill Mann, Paul Zettler, Mike Thompson and Marcus Brown–include everyone from Van Halen to Waylon Jennings, the Doors to the Allman Brothers Band, Led Zeppelin to the Drive-By Truckers. Wearing those influences on their sleeves, the band follows the tradition of many a classic rock band by starting some of their tunes with quiet, open-string arpeggiated intros that lead into power chords and crashing drums that make the way for Woolsey’s vocals.

Woolsey said the band is selling its eponymous CD via the usual digital outlets, but other plans are in the works as well.

“It’s on iTunes and CD Baby, and you can find also it on our website,” said Woolsey. “We might try to do something with an indie label—see if the right label would want to pick it up, maybe go that route. But we also want to get a single out to radio. We’re working with a radio promotion guy, and between doing that and working with a booking agent, we’re still trying to figure out what all we can do to get the record out to the masses.”

Woolsey said one hurdle to overcome is that the band’s songs aren’t the 2:50 pieces that country and pop radio demand.

“Our material’s not exactly [extended jams] like the Allman Brothers, but some of it is pretty long, so we have to kind of pick and choose what the singles will be and who we send material to,” Woolsey said. “We’re leaning towards stations like 102.9 The Buzz, real rock stations, but it could also go to the (AAA) Lightning 100-type stations as well. So we’re kind of looking at both of those markets. We’re still trying to decide which would be the best song to send to radio; we’re gonna let some of the folks we’re working with guide us to figure out which song it should be. I personally can hear just about any song on the album being single material.”   

Woolsey has seen the music business from the inside out at the highest levels for many years as the son of Erv Woolsey, manager of George Strait, Lee Ann Womack and other country stars. Even though he himself hasn’t followed the traditional country route of the best-known of his father’s clients, the music business is the music business, and Woolsey is a veteran of it. When he’s not busy with The Shakes, Woolsey fronts Hotel Coral Essex, more of a country band that holds court on the weekends at Loser’s Bar and Grill in Nashville’s Vanderbilt area, a club that is partly owned by his father.

            “With Hotel Coral Essex, we started out doing cover songs but we’ve moved over to original material as well,” Woolsey said. “We’ve been together for about three and a half years and we play quite a bit, and are basically just looking to get some more stuff on the books.  We’ve toured a little and played around Nashville a lot, and, if it’s possible, I think maybe we were playing in Nashville too much. Not playing out as much almost makes a gig a special event, maybe gets people to come out more if you aren’t playing all the time.”

Woolsey himself engineered The Shakes, which was produced by the band with Tres Sasser (Will Hoge, Vegas Cocks), and mixed by Sasser and Chris Grainger (Switchfoot, Jeff Coffin). He said that it doesn’t get much better than working with high-caliber studio veterans such as Sasser and Grainger, and playing in a band with members whose resumes include opening for such acts as Hootie and the Blowfish and Great White. “We’re real proud of our music and the new album,” Woolsey said, “and we’re real excited to be getting it out to the people.”


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