The Rise of Sarah Shook and the Disarmers
They will tell you that women can’t make it in country music these days, and it’s certainly true that it appears to be more difficult than ever. And if you think it’s tough being a woman in country music, try being a woman in country music who is actually making country music, which might put you in the most marginalized category of them all. Add on top of that no significant radio play or a major label behind you, and on the surface an artist like Sarah Shook has little to no chance to make it in the music business.
But despite all of this, Sarah Shook has arrived, and become one of the most unlikely country music success stories over the last couple of years by recording stellar albums that break through the monotony of releases, and can’t be held back by the bulwarks of adversity that bully most independent country music artists.
To understand the rise of Sarah Shook, you first have to go back to the mid 90’s, and a throwback traditional country band called the Two Dollar Pistols. Formed in 1996 around singer and songwriter John Howie Jr. and the music scene swirling around Chapel Hill, North Carolina, the Two Dollar Pistols never received as much widespread recognition as some of the other resurgent throwback bands of the time such as the Ryan Adams-led Whiskeytown or Nashville’s Lower Broadway revivalists BR-549. But they released a well-favored record in 1997 called On Down The Track, and by the next year they were signed to Yep Roc Records.
The coming years would see the Two Dollar Pistols evolve into the go-to neotraditional band of North Carolina, with plenty of national and international implications for those in-the-know looking for the old sound made by new artists. John Howie Jr. became a well-respected singer and songwriter in independent musical circles, and the band cut a 7-song EP with fellow North Carolina-based singer and songwriter Tift Merritt, aptly called The Two Dollar Pistols With Tift Merritt. It was Merritt’s first proper record, and put her on the national database as an emerging name in country and roots music as well.
The Two Dollar Pistols would release multiple records on Yep Roc, starting with the well-received live record called Step Right Up. 2002’s follow up You Ruined Everything, and later Hands Up! remain gems of the early 2000’s neotraditional movement. But like many of those neotraditional bands that started in the late 90’s, the Two Dollar Pistols were not long for the world, and they shortly dissolved sometime after their 2007 record Here Today, Gone Tomorrow.
By this time, John Howie Jr. had been ensconced as a traditional country icon in Chapel Hill. He played for a while in a regional all-star band called The Sweethearts, and eventually formed the band Rosewood Bluff to back him up with Two Dollar Pistols drummer Matt Brown. They released their first album in 2011, and then released Leaving Yesterday in 2013, which received a Two Guns Up review from Saving Country Music, as did the 2014 effort, Everything Except Goodbye.
Despite the positive press around these parts, John Howie Jr. and Rosewood Bluff still remained very much a regional, and underground phenomenon, though well beloved and appreciated by those who’d been clued into the music. In August of 2015, John Howie Jr. was getting ready to release another album called Not Tonight. When reaching out to Saving Country Music to give an initial heads up about the upcoming record, Howie Jr. launched into a description of another project he’d been working on and was clearly passionate about.
“The main reason I’m writing at this point is to let you know about an album I just finished making with a woman named Sarah Shook, recorded at a studio here in NC called Manifold,” Howie emailed on August 5th, 2015. “The album is called ‘Sidelong,’ it’s coming out in October. Upright bass, steel guitar, kind of a mix of Hank Williams/some rockabilly – but certainly not in a corny or retro way – and some REALLY kick ass songs. I’m really proud of the record, it was produced by a guy named Ian Schreier, Grammy-nominated producer for his work on a Roomful of Blues album.”
Sidelong wasn’t to be released on any record label. There was no publicist for the project, or manager behind Sarah Shook at the time. It was a completely self-funded underground endeavor recorded in North Carolina by some people who saw the potential of what Sarah Shook was capable of. The only press Sarah Shook had received up to that point was a feature in the Raleigh/Durham/ Chapel Hill alternative newsweekly called Indy Week, written by Corby Hill.
The Indy Week article went into pretty in-depth detail about Sarah Shook’s past, how she started playing music seriously for the first time in a band called Sarah Shook and the Devil, playing as many as 30 shows in a given year before dissolving in 2013. The feature talked about Sarah’s home-schooled, fundamentalist Christian upbringing, which she of course rebelled against. It talked about how she was a single mom, working bar shifts and playing in bands in between trying to be best mom she could be to her then 8-year-old son.
The article also outed John Howie Jr. as Sarah Shook’s significant other at the time, but most importantly it pointed to the moment when Sarah Shook and the Disarmers morphed from a local/regional punk-infused honky tonk band into something more serious. It was when guitarist Eric Peterson laid the gauntlet down about the future of The Disarmers.
“It was the longest message I’ve ever seen from him,” Shook told Indy Week. “He’s a man of few words.”
Peterson had followed Shook through her previous bands The Devil and The Dirty Hands as her primary guitarist. He’d also previously been a member of the Chapel Hill-based rock band The Kamikazees, notable for being one of the early projects of Dex Romweber who went on to form the Flat Duo Jets—one of Jack White’s primary influences.
In short, the message from Eric Peterson showed both a faith in what Sarah Shook was doing and how Peterson felt it could have implications in country music far beyond Chapel Hill, but also a frustration that Shook wasn’t taking the project more seriously. They needed to record an album, to print up some merch, and make a go of it instead of putzing around Chapel Hill. And so with Eric Peterson on guitar, and John Howie Jr. on drums, Sarah Shook and the Disarmers took the big plunge and recorded Sidelong.
When Saving Country Music received its copy and posted a review on October 30th, 2015, it received similar high praised to John Howie Jr.’s projects with Rosewood Bluff, and readers immediately latched onto the project.
“Who knows what whims govern the exiled ghost of authentic country as it scans the fruited plain looking for souls to possess? But it found Sarah Shook in North Carolina, and her destiny was inescapable,” the review read. “She opens her mouth and a ghostly, smoky yodel is emitted carrying the weight of a thousand troubled and worried spirits crying out in tormented moans about heartache and the resignation to never living up to the expectations of yourself and others. ‘Sidelong’ may find itself in a dark and troubled place much of the time, but it’s good old country music at its heart.”
Unfortunately, neither the Saving Country Music review, nor the detailed feature in North Carolina’s Indy Week were the accelerant to Sarah Shook going national and international, but they did light the spark. Though Shook remained seriously off the radar for most of the country and Americana realm, those who received a copy of Sidelong were singing its praises. Sarah Shook and the Disarmers started to tour when they could, and bided their time, waiting for their big break. Early on, Shook had even sent a pitch to Bloodshot Records to see if they were interested in releasing her music, but it went ignored.
Then came a performance at AmericanaFest in Nashville in late September of 2016 at the well-known Nashville venue 12th and Porter. It was a strangely-curated showcase, with the progressive string band The Accidentals also playing. But the space was packed with notables from the independent music realm, including Bob Boilen, who is the host and creator of NPR’s All Songs Considered and the man behind NPR’s Tiny Desk concerts. Craig Havighurst of Music City Roots and now Americana radio station WMOT was also in attendance. And most importantly, the co-founder of Bloodshot Records, Rob Miller, was in the audience. Despite whatever early apprehension on Sarah Shook, Bloodshot was now hot on her trail. Saving Country Music was also on site, watching it all from the 12th and Porter balcony.
As the members of The Accidentals were freaking out because the great and powerful Bob Boilen from NPR wanted to meet them after their show, Sarah Shook took the 12th and Porter stage and slayed. In the Americana recap from 2016, Saving Country Music shared, “In an era when mainstream country music has been overrun by bubblegum pop and much of the underground has forgotten about good songwriting, Sarah Shook and her Disarmers are just what is needed to revitalize the dark side of country without compromising the quality of the music.”
Apparently Rob Miller and Bloodshot Records agreed, and on January 25th, 2017, it was announced that Sarah Shook and the Disarmers had signed with the well-respected grassroots label, famous for bringing insurgent country to the forefront. Bloodshot would be re-releasing Sidelong, which they did on April 28th, 2017, and with the Bloodshot Records stamp of approval all of a sudden the opportunities, attention, and resources of the independent country and roots community began to flow to Shook, helped along by the sincerely infectious nature of Sidelong.
But that album was just the start. Since it was a re-release, some hardcore fans had already heard it, and so the album bubbled instead of blowing up. They say you have your whole life to write your first record, and the test for Sarah Shook and the Disarmers would be with their sophomore effort. At some point between the signing with Bloodshot and the recording of what would be Sarah Shook’s second record Years, the relationship with singer and songwriter turned drummer John Howie Jr. dissolved, and that became part of the fuel for the inspiration and narratives of the second album.
Sarah Shook said in a recent interview that when the relationship was on its last legs, John Howie Jr. at one point said Shook would be “good as gold” if she left him, while his life would go to pieces. This became the title of the opening song of Years, which was released on Bloodshot Records on April 6th, 2018 to positive reception. As an auspicious of a start as Sidelong was for Shook, Years has found a whole other gear of appreciation from country fans looking for true emotion and authenticity. In many people’s conversations about what might be the best album released in country music in 2018, Sarah Shook’s Years often comes up. Dark, real, yet infectious from its keen understanding of melody and the superb work of guitarist Eric Peterson, it’s one of those records that reminds you why you became a fan of music in the first place, country or otherwise.
On June 20th, Sarah Shook and the Disarmers were tapped unexpectedly to play a rescheduled date on Willie Nelson’s Outlaw Fest in Charlotte, North Carolina at the PNC Pavilion. The once rag tag group that was just trying to make the scene in Chapel Hill got to play in front of a capacity crowd of over 19,000 people, and Sarah got the honor of singing with Willie at the end of the show during Willie’s Gospel medley.
Meanwhile John Howie Jr. has finally set a release date for his latest record and first official solo released called Not Tonight—the record he was giving Saving Country Music a heads up about when he first mentioned Sarah Shook in August of 2015, and sidelined due to his Disarmers duties as the band began to blow up. The revamped record will be released September 21st, 2018 via Suah Sounds, and features appearances by members of The Disarmers.
“This album is a step forward from a disconcerting period of time in my life,” Howie says. “In this case, the long, slow dissolution of a relationship. Everything that goes with that is in these songs: loss, loneliness, booze, suspicion, all of it. ‘Not Tonight’ confronts a specific, painful period in my life, and the music is largely sparser, the lyrics more confessional than before. It ends on a relatively high note, but it’s a mighty rough road gettin’ there.”
Just as the relationship of John Howie Jr. and Sarah Shook helped give rise to the original Disarmers sound and story, now that dissolving of the relationship has given rise to songs of heartbreak from both parties. Their loss is the audience’s gain, which is often the way in country music.
But the story of Sarah Shook shouldn’t just be framed through the lens of Howie Jr.’s aid, or guitarist Eric Perterson’s ultimatum, or whatever assistance Saving Country Music, Indie Week, or any other media entity provided, or the eventual help Bloodshot Records lent. Certainly it takes a community of individuals and opportunities to launch a music career, especially considering the odds and usually unfortunate outcomes of such endeavors. But to zoom back three years after the initial release of Shook’s debut album Sidelong, to consider her virtually-improbable story as a single mom and unknown from Chapel Hill, North Carolina making a career out of music, it’s clear validation that she has that certain indefinable something that makes an artist exceptional, and right for their time.
Sarah Shook and the Disarmers are still very much under-the-radar in the grand scheme of things, and have to endure many smelly van rides to low-paying gigs as they continue their ascent. But as far as the ultimate goal of building a sustainable career where a band can support themselves and their families through music, Sarah Shook and the Disarmers have made it. It’s been an improbable three years, especially for a band that is very much a construct of the underground. But as the results of the album Years can attest, validation for hard work and personal perseverance are still possible, regardless of the adversity.
July 31, 2018 @ 10:57 am
Life is miserable and then you die.
July 31, 2018 @ 12:14 pm
Get an air conditioner and turn off that pop-bro-country radio station. There… not so miserable now?
Oh, and get a dog!
July 31, 2018 @ 12:47 pm
Scowling in the rain. Frowning through the pain.
July 31, 2018 @ 1:49 pm
It usually is when you make the wrong decisions in life. But she is a rebel.
July 31, 2018 @ 11:10 am
Read about Sarah Shook in the May, 2018 issue of Mix Magazine and promptly looked her up. two minutes into “Years” and I was hooked. Just like the first time I heard Merle, Hank or Hancock.
Yep, as Ian Schreier recalls “Wait, is this what I think it is? Do I now know what it means when somebody says, ‘They have it. The X factor,’ or whatever. It was a bit rough at that point, sure, and I’m there as part of Marco (Bianchi’s) deal, but there was definitely something about her. Something there. An authenticity.”
Many thanks to anyone and everyone who has helped put Sarah and her band on the map.
November 3, 2018 @ 6:28 pm
I agree 100%, something raw and authentic hooked me! In another life I believe she is my wild girl!
July 31, 2018 @ 11:40 am
Thanks to SCM’s heads up about Sarah Shook & The Disarmers some time back, I dug in to Sidelong. Had a chance to see her in a local bar in Urbana, IL last July. Her voice was roached out from a cold or whatever and the crowd was thin (this is Luke Bryan territory) it was a great show. I even bought Sarah a pre-show beer when she bellied up to the bar next to me. She’s a tiny thing. Wish I’d kept that bottle cap. Anyway, yet another great article, Trigger.
July 31, 2018 @ 11:50 am
It’s amazing what real artists have to go through compared to a lot of those mainstream pretty boy DB’s.
Way to go Sarah!
July 31, 2018 @ 12:05 pm
Great review and history lesson. Sarah and the guys deserve all the success they have earned. Hoping they don’t get too successful though, as that sometimes changes the character & quality of the music being produced.
August 2, 2018 @ 7:28 am
What a ridiculous thing to say. She’s made 2 albums so far that I’m going to love for the rest of my life, no matter what direction she decides to take. She should be and deserves to be incredibly successful. And it’s crazy to complain about how we don’t like what’s popular and successful right now, say we love this instead, and then say that we don’t want it to be successful. I want her and performers like her to be everywhere. I personally want what I consider to be good music to the the mainstream.
August 2, 2018 @ 8:36 am
I wish them nothing but the best. But I could list dozens of bands that were negatively affected by the volatile combination of long years on the road in close quarters, alcohol, success/fame, and differences in opinion on musical direction.
July 31, 2018 @ 12:17 pm
As a 65 yr. old, my reaction to the last two posts couldn’t be more different. Sarah Shook is playing the kind of music I seek out. Kenny Chesney plays the kind of drivel I try my hardest to avoid. Well, back to yelling at clouds and chasing kids off my lawn.
July 31, 2018 @ 12:23 pm
She sounds to me like Florence Welch faking an American accent.
July 31, 2018 @ 12:26 pm
“Years” may be my favorite record of 2018. Really looking forward to seeing her and the band when they come to Bay City in a few weeks.
July 31, 2018 @ 12:33 pm
Sarah Shook is playing Labor Day weekend in Decatur GA but I was on the fence about going to see the band. After reading your article and re-listening to her latest album, I knew I would regret missing the show. Bought my tickets. Thanks for the timely article.
July 31, 2018 @ 9:26 pm
See you there. I saw her in Brooklyn late last year and as soon as I saw the Eddie’s Attic show announced, I snapped up two tables. Gonna introduce her to 7 soon to be fans.
July 31, 2018 @ 12:36 pm
I want to like her and I have a few songs on my playlist but her vibrato can be a little much, especially after repeated listens. I like the spirit of her music tho.
July 31, 2018 @ 6:04 pm
Ditto Seth …….( pitch and vibrato ) ….but its kinda of a Chrissie Hynde thing isn’t it ? Its so” in-your-face” and ”don-t -give -a-flying -fuck’ that you can’t NOT love it on attitude alone .
Its so REAL real that it makes just PLAIN ‘real’ seem fake . Its like punching someone in the face and not being able to stop even long after you know you should have . I’ve never done that but listening to SS makes me wanna ……maybe just once . Just because .
July 31, 2018 @ 8:54 pm
Word. I just got done hashing it out with her so to speak haha. Hopefully she sees that this site is on her side.
July 31, 2018 @ 12:43 pm
Sarah Shook should be nothing but supported.
Years is my AOTY so far.
She followed up a stellar album with a stellar album and everyone else be damned.
Haters just stay the fuck away.
Certain artists click with fans because they are so relatable to their own lives, the songs, the words.
I can see why she may not resonate for some. However, I don’t see why she can’t be appreciated. She is country.. Though she really is hard country with great cross over appeal.
She is like a punk rock country star or something with the voice that fits it.
There is a bit more to her backstory here in regards to her activism and unique orientation.
She is the real authentic deal with a kick ass talented band.
I am seeing her for the third time in Sept.
The past two shows have been a stellar good time.
July 31, 2018 @ 12:56 pm
Very nice article. I agree she’s been the story of the year.
Why don’t you ever mention Shook’s social causes (namely the work she does with the LGBTQ community)? Normally, I don’t like to define someone by their sexuality and would like for their work to stand on its own (especially in this political environment). But, it’s part of her story and the obstacles she’s overcoming in this genre. Her crowds are the most diverse and accepting since Willie’s Hippie and Cowboy picnic days. It’s remarkable the people she’s exposing country music to while not sacrificing any of its integrity. I think it’s part of any story about Shook in the short term.
July 31, 2018 @ 1:55 pm
I don’t really mention any artist’s social causes or identities unless I feel it’s truly germane to the music. I don’t avoid it either, but I think music media these days is spending too much attention talking about who artists are, as opposed to what the music is. I feel like it’s lending to a new version of tribalism. Also, Sarah really didn’t start speaking out about social causes or about being bisexual until recently. I don’t really think it held her back in any way, though I am happy that someone who openly identifies as bisexual isn’t facing backlash in the country realm.
July 31, 2018 @ 6:27 pm
…..”but I think music media these days is spending too much attention talking about who artists are, as opposed to what the music is. ”
…not just music media Trigger ….but yeah ….dead on . I don’t really CARE what SS or Carrie or Miranda do when they aren’t writing , performing or recording…. unless its killing cats . and even then only CERTAIN cats . ( JOKING ,catpeople …JOKING ! )
July 31, 2018 @ 12:57 pm
From what ive heard (which is only like half a dozen songs,) I really like this music, I like these songs. But she sounds like she has some sort of weird inflection or affectation to the way she annunciates that drives me CRAZY. does anyone else hear what I’m saying? I don’t know how to describe it.
July 31, 2018 @ 2:15 pm
Yes, I do. And I think it was part of reason why I didn’t buy the album when she first released it. Now, it’s just part of the package that I embrace. I dig it.
July 31, 2018 @ 1:15 pm
i think this site mentioned something about the re-release of Sidelong when it came out and i bought it right away (and then after one listen, bought Sarah Shook & The Devil as well). Totally loved that album. Pre-ordered Years as soon as I heard about it. I really dig what she’s doing: her sound, her lyrics… her attitude. I hope more people start to listen. I haven’t gotten to see her live yet but i hope that changes soon. Her voice isn’t for everyone (my wife hates it) but I love the rawness.
Years is quite likely my AOTY pick too, and thats even with an American Aquarium album out this year as well.
Speaking of American Aquarium, I’ve noticed that Kevin McClain (former drummer for AA) and Adam Kurtz (current pedal steel for AA) are touring with Sarah & The Disarmers when schedules allow
July 31, 2018 @ 1:22 pm
Yes, and Adam Kurtz is great steel guitar player. He’s really helping to “make” the sound of Sarah Shook and the new American Aquarium sound.
July 31, 2018 @ 1:28 pm
Just saw them last week in Seattle. The crowd knew every word to every song from Sidelong, and loved every song from Years. The line for merch (by the front door) after the show went all the way back to the stage. Sarah’s fans are as devoted to her music and “realness” as Flockers are to Cody Jinks.
Which is better, Sidelong or Years? The only answer I have is YES.
Years is my AOTY so far and it ain’t close.
July 31, 2018 @ 1:41 pm
Is this the chick that lived in New York until she moved to NC with her parents in her 20s, and now claims she grown up in NC?
July 31, 2018 @ 2:17 pm
It’s on her Wikipedia page about being from N.Y. i don’t see the problem with her calling this her home
July 31, 2018 @ 2:31 pm
Not only that, but in this interview she clearly states that she was born in Rochester, NY (in western New York State, more than 300 miles from NYC) and moved to NC with her parents in 2004, when she was 18.
July 31, 2018 @ 2:35 pm
Correction. She said she was 20.
August 2, 2018 @ 7:32 am
You must be thinking of someone else. I’ve read a lot of articles and listened to a lot of interviews and I’ve never heard her claim that.
July 31, 2018 @ 1:47 pm
Gave her a couple of chances. No thanks. Not my cup of tea. There are much better singers.
July 31, 2018 @ 2:21 pm
Give her another chance in a few years after you tire of everyone sounding the same.
July 31, 2018 @ 5:12 pm
If sounding the same means sounding relatively normal and clear, I am fine with that.
July 31, 2018 @ 2:30 pm
Yeah me too, but that’s happened a few times and I go always go back and give it another listen just to be sure that I still don’t care for it or maybe I’ll hear what they’re all hearing.
July 31, 2018 @ 8:36 pm
I shared your opinion at first, but the song that really clicked for me was “Damned if I Do”. It’s an ass kicker of a song, and a great example of her spirit, the Hank Williams influence and the punch provided by her band. That was the gateway to me really appreciating her.
July 31, 2018 @ 2:10 pm
Is this article about Sarah Shook or her ex-boyfriend?
July 31, 2018 @ 4:22 pm
This article is about the rise of Sarah Shook and the Disarmers, presenting a timeline of how she went from a realitvely unknown singer and songwriter in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, to an artist that had garnered enough attention to open for Willie Nelson in front of a 19,000-person crowd. Part of that story is John Howie Jr. and guitarist Eric Peterson, AmericanaFest and the opportunities it bestows for artists, periodicals like Indy Week and Saving Country Music, and ultimately Bloodshot Records that took a chance on her and are seeing it pay off.
As the article says in summation, “…But the story of Sarah Shook shouldn’t just be framed through the lens of Howie Jr.’s aid, or guitarist Eric Perterson’s ultimatum, or whatever assistance Saving Country Music, Indie Week, or any other media entity provided, or the eventual help Bloodshot Records lent … it’s clear validation that she has that certain indefinable something that makes an artist exceptional, and right for their time.”
Ultimately, all credit goes to Sarah Shook.
There are so many negative stories out there right now about how hard it is for artist, and especially women to make it in country music. I wanted to present a positive story that shows that perseverance can still lend to success, if the artist is gifted and resolute.
July 31, 2018 @ 9:31 pm
Except you pretty much framed the entire article through all the men around her. You even included a picture of her ex, for crying out loud.
August 1, 2018 @ 6:30 am
Good god! Are you seriously offended with the way the article is presented and with Trig including a picture of JH Jr? I hope folks like you don’t turn Trig away from doing what he does.
August 1, 2018 @ 7:06 am
Female country singers are already marginalized on the radio. Why marginalize them in stories that are ostensibly about them?
August 1, 2018 @ 10:01 am
I agree with you mostly (writers should be more careful with things like that), but let’s not forget the context. Trigger goes out of his way to support women artists. He has supported her and championed her numerous times. His review of Years, for example, makes note of Eric’s contributions more as a footnote and if this is a story about her “rise,” which it is, it is interesting to see the behind the scenes connections that help people break through, and it seems there were some men involved in that story. So while I might have framed it differently myself, I also feel that writing something in a certain way and avoiding emphasizing arguably crucial elements of the story, just to avoid giving some credit to a man, is also somewhat problematic.
August 1, 2018 @ 12:10 pm
I couldn’t respond to Matt’s response to me so I’m responding to both Matt and Scott G in a way. In reference to Matt, I just didn’t interpret the article as marginalizing Sarah. As Scott noted, Trig introduced us years ago to her music and I’ve really enjoyed her music since, purchasing everything I could have from this band and her former band (except the re-release since I already owned it). I was surprised when I continued reading the comments and saw that Sarah and her camp were upset and also interpreted this as marginalizing her efforts. I could be wrong but I just didn’t see it that way.
July 31, 2018 @ 2:28 pm
Ok I’ve been seeing folks trip over themselves to call this album of the year. I just listened to it. It’s not bad but it’s nothing really great either. Her voice is borderline annoying as well. Still better than country radio but album of the year? Nah.
August 1, 2018 @ 4:15 am
What’s your top 5 albums this year so far?
August 1, 2018 @ 9:05 am
Don’t have a ranking yet. Would like to see everything that’s come out so far but Brent Cobb, Brandi Carlisle, Cody Jinks, Brothers Osborne, Joshua Hedley, and American Aquarium have all made better albums.
My favorite album this year doesn’t really count I guess but Nathaniel Rateliff’s newest is incredible.
August 1, 2018 @ 6:49 pm
Yes! That Nathaniel Rateliff album is ridiculous!
August 1, 2018 @ 7:17 am
Well, that settles it, then.
July 31, 2018 @ 2:29 pm
1st time I saw her and her then band was 2016 in a hotel conference room near Green Bay..still kicked ass.
July 31, 2018 @ 2:34 pm
Hey Trigger have you checked out her latest Instagram post. Kinda slams you without mentioning you by name.
July 31, 2018 @ 3:52 pm
I just posted there to tell her how silly she is being. She’s basically showing everyone that she’s just like all these other pc bullshitters pretending to be outlaws. Scm has been promoting the fuck out of this chick and shes seriously hating? Wtf?
July 31, 2018 @ 4:43 pm
Look, when you broach the subject of previous relationships, it can get very emotional for the parties involved. I completely understood this was a risk when I wrote the article. I posted this article wanting to give a detailed chronology of how Sarah Shook went from an unknown musician, to now opening for Willie Nelson in front of a massive crowd, and probably a contender for Album of the Year. I did this because just like Sturgill Simpson, Cody Jinks, Tyler Childers, and many artists before, it’s important that we study how artists “make it,” learn from their triumphs and mistakes, and use it as teaching mechanisms and inspirations for other artists and bands.
I had a sense that perhaps Sarah Shook or someone else might not like the candid nature with which I approached this subject, but I didn’t write this article to suck up to her, her label, or anyone else. I also didn’t share anything that wasn’t already public knowledge. I told this story as an accurate portrayal of how she went from obscurity to success. It would have been irresponsible to not mention John Howie Jr., Eric Pederson, or the other people involved. That doesn’t mean that ultimately the lion’s share of the credit doesn’t reside with Sarah Shook. Of course it does. In fact, that doesn’t even really need to be said. It should be taken as a given. But I said it anyway. I’m just not sure some folks made it that far.
So though I understand that Sarah Shook might be torqued that I mentioned her and her ex in the same article, the idea that I in any way did not give Sarah credit for her own success, and instead pawned it off on her ex-boyfriend or anyone else is ludicrous, and shortsighted. But I get it. She’s got other folks in her ear probably telling her what a piece of shit I am and to be angry, and so perhaps she is. But it doesn’t make this story any less true, or any less important to tell it.
I don’t run a popularity contest. I’m here to tell the truth, and to give honest criticism. Some people get that. Some can’t hold out for 27 paragraphs before they take to social media to inaccurately portray this article. All I know is Sarah Shook is a very important artist in country music, and it’s important her story is told. Puff pieces straight from the artists/managers/labels/publicists’s mouth don’t make new fans, they just preach to the choir. If nothing else, hopefully this illustrates to people that I am my own man with my own voice. An article like this will help Sarah Shook because people know I’m not just an extension of the industry. And when I say Sarah Shook has one of the best records in 2018, it’s not because of politics, fandom, or personal friendship. It’s because I believe it, and others do too.
July 31, 2018 @ 5:56 pm
Perfect. All that needs to be said.
August 1, 2018 @ 4:25 am
You can’t really blame people for calling you sexist, though, right? I mean, you did say Little Big Town couldn’t sing the motorboatin’ line in Pontoon because their tits weren’t big enough. I mean…… yeahh.
August 1, 2018 @ 9:32 am
1) The devolved, torpid, and sexually suggestive “motorbotin'” line in “Pontoon” by Little Big Town is like a cum stain on the mattress of country music. Whatever criticism that came at them for that song and that line was fair and valid.
2) Just did a search to try and find where I mentioned “Little Big Town” and “tits” on this site previously, and it doesn’t exist. That said, I’ve published over 4,800 articles on this site, and I can’t say for sure that a much less damning version of what you’re accusing me of saying in a sarcastic and much more appropriate context doesn’t exist. But just because I rage against a immature, and frankly sexist line in a song to begin with, with my own tongue lashing of irreverent humor doesn’t mean I hate all women and want them to be subjugated to the patriarchy. You would think my track record of defending and supporting women in country music would also lend to this, but of course with 4,800 articles published, it’s easier to quote mine (or paraphrase quotes that may not even exist) than to give a fair portrayal of reality.
August 1, 2018 @ 10:02 am
That’s your idea of irreverent humor? Lol.
August 1, 2018 @ 11:02 am
Yes. That song was bullshit, and that article was categorized in “Down With Pop Country,” which is a specific place for all content that utilizes sarcasm and hyperbole. Fuck political correctness.
August 1, 2018 @ 11:03 am
I support your right to say whatever you want, but you can stop being surprised you’re met with sexist claims all the time, i think.
August 1, 2018 @ 4:50 am
You did spend way too much time giving us a history of her former drummer. His involvement in her career could have been summed up in a sentence or two.
And I’ve been a fan of John Howie since he was a record store clerk.
August 1, 2018 @ 9:53 am
It would have been inappropriate and inaccurate to only give John Howie Jr. one or two sentences in this article. The underlying arc of this article was to explain how the underground country scene in Chapel Hill, North Carolina was formed and gave rise to Sarah Shook and the Disarmers. John Howie Jr. is seminal to that story. John Howie Jr. was not just “Sarah Shook’s former drummer.” This is a reduction of his efforts, and an inaccurate portrayal of his contributions. Sarah Shook may see it differently, but it’s my job as a journalist to portray events truthfully, not through the lens of an artist.
It’s difficult to find an article where Sarah Shook doesn’t go into detail—and usually more than one or two sentences—about how the dissolving of her relationship with John Howie Jr. inspired much of the music on “Years.” She just doesn’t name him by name. I did.
John Howie Jr. was not just Sarah Shook’s former drummer. He was a guy that helped form the Chapel Hill scene where she rose from, he was a seasoned veteran of the music industry who was able to bring that experience and acumen to the Sarah Shook team. He put his own music aside as a singer, songwriter, and guitar player, and put Sarah’s first when he saw what she could be capable of. This is a compelling narrative with which to weave around both artist’s music, and the only way to tell the story was in depth, in context, and accurately.
If either side doesn’t like how it was portrayed, that’s understandable with the emotional component that swirls around breakups. But you know what, tough shit. It’s the truth, and sets the music of both artists in a more compelling context for listeners, enhancing the listening experience. Sarah Shook’s anger and heartbreak from John Howie Jr. resulted in one of the best records to be released so far this year. I did my job of telling that story, because it was an important and interesting one to tell.
August 1, 2018 @ 10:16 am
“Damned if you do, damned if you don’t,” to quote, well, Sarah Shook.
Good article. I like her albums. I like her live even more.
July 31, 2018 @ 4:09 pm
I hope this doesn’t mean more fucking women in Country Music articles to compensate for the hurt feelers. These fake outlaws with political crusades wear me the fuck out.
July 31, 2018 @ 4:23 pm
You can chalk this all up as another casualty in the inevitable fallout from the post break up friends draft.
July 31, 2018 @ 4:27 pm
This is so fucking amazing to me. Sarah just lost all her credibility as an outlaw by getting butt hurt that her ex may have been one of the MANY reasons for her success. No one does it alone, Sarah! You’re the sexist for making a big deal about it! And for no fucking reason! It’s the honky tonk hustlas all over again, Trig!
July 31, 2018 @ 4:50 pm
If someone mentioned one of your ex’s and tied them in any way to your success, your blood might start to boil too. I don’t blame Sarah Shook for getting a little unnerved over that. I just wish she wouldn’t have portrayed it like I was giving all the credit to her ex-boyfriend or anyone else. Honestly if you read the post, her guitarist Eric Peterson and her performance at AmericanaFest 2016 are given the 1 and 1A credit. But John Howie Jr. had a part to play too, and was important to mention in the chronology. Also, the Two Dollar Pistols and John Howie Jr. have some great music. NO reason to pass up an opportunity mentioning them.
July 31, 2018 @ 5:32 pm
Yeah but if that’s the case, she should own it and not paint you as sexist. Feel me?
July 31, 2018 @ 6:07 pm
Unfortunately there is very little that can’t be construed as sexist these days, and even more unfortunately, I am seeing it result in the direct discouragement of male music journalists writing about women. The only way not to be called sexist is to not write about women, and so they don’t, especially certain artists who are apt to draw the ire of Twitter trolls. I find myself getting apprehensive about writing about women. But I think it’s important we still do. It might be more important than ever.
July 31, 2018 @ 6:29 pm
Great, informative article. Enjoyed the timeline and the trajectory story. She’s not that great, but the new standard is “it’s better than the crap on the radio”. I’m learning to make peace with this being the new normal. But her reaction to your work is juvenile. So much of what we laud as “real” and “authentic” is just a different recipe for B.S.
July 31, 2018 @ 7:18 pm
Sarah was shook.
July 31, 2018 @ 7:18 pm
Sarah was shook.
Fat Freddy's Cat
August 1, 2018 @ 7:14 am
As far as the Twitter trolls slagging male journalists for writing about female artists, I just can’t see them as anything but deliberate troublemakers with too much time on their hands. Because we all know damn well that if you and other male journalists stop writing about women in music, the trolls will shriek that you’re deliberating blackballing female artists and trying to write them out of country music. There is no point in trying to placate those jerks.
I’ve bought Sarah Shook’s records and I’m going to go see Sarah Shook live later this month. If you hadn’t written about her I probably wouldn’t even know she existed.
August 1, 2018 @ 8:27 am
Trigger, with all due respect, this was a disappointing article to say the least.
Who was it about? You can’t write a headline that screams Sarah Shook, tease the story in a couple of sentences, then spend 5 paragraphs talking about someone else.
As a reader, I was honestly confused because you spent so much time establishing who Howie was. I still don’t care. I wanted to read about Sarah. Granted, you know the discography, but it was a very awkward read at best.
I didn’t care about the ex. He should have been a footnote, he was not the story. Your story read as though you were his biggest fan. He has no relevance to her popularity now at all, but your enthusiasm for him, and to be able to show off your knowledge about him is what I was left with. Bro Crush? You couldn’t find other information about Sarah? You couldn’t delve into how she was the driving force, the writer, the creative magnet that brought others into her realm? Her business mind on keeping tabs on the costs, the travel, the gigs, keeping the group on the road, in front of the public and creating the buzz that got her noticed? There must be a wealth of information out there about just how impressive her rise was…and WHY you led the story with “They will tell you that women can’t make it in country music these days, and it’s certainly true that it appears to be more difficult than ever.” You never resolved or illustrated just what SHE did.
You pretty much created a piece others would read because of a headline, in order to promote someone else entirely.
Now, I’ve read your defense. You obviously don’t like being critiqued, but unfortunately, sometimes the truth hurts. Re-read it as though you had not written it, and you may just find out that you gave Sarah little credit for being someone who has created her own niche, instead, you said Howie and Peterson were major players…let’s see, she writes the music, she sings the music, she has the unique quality about her performance, and oh yeah, the act is Sarah Shook and the Disarmers…not John Howie and the Disarmers, Not Howie and Peterson, not just The Disarmers.
Sarah is the main coarse, and you wrote about her as if she was the after dinner mint. Anyone would take offense at your assessment.
Your first sentence read “They will tell you that women can’t make it in country music these days, and it’s certainly true that it appears to be more difficult than ever. ”
You never made that case, as you were more concerned with making sure you wrote Howie prominently into the article. It read like “the life and times of John Howie.” You were more than a little enthusiastic about him…and he didn’t write the material that caused Sarah to break through…again, he was at best, a footnote.
Oh, and please, get off the victim train. It has nothing to do with you being a guy writing about a woman. That was just a lame shot because “you can’t handle the truth” in the fact that you dropped the ball on this one.
Self-editing would have improved the read immensely.
August 1, 2018 @ 10:41 am
No reason not to mention (highlight might be a better word)the men other than they are men, and it’s a story about a woman in 2018. This topic is hard to navigate. I understand where you are coming from completely. But, like many things, it’s a double edged sword: You shouldn’t write a historical article and constantly be worried about gender or other politics. On the flip side, we can all be more cognizant of the history (and current cases of) others being marginalized. I have read enough of your writing to know that you are a champion (in your own way) of women in country music, but not everyone reads you all the time. FWIW, my only suggestion would be, when it comes to writing a story like this, consider that. What if someone is only reading this article, and doesn’t better understand your intentions? I think you can still say what you want to say, still tell the story, not give in to being afraid to write about women, but at the same time be a little more aware of what it might be like to be a woman reading a story about a woman, written by a man, that is framed around and emphasizes the male role in the woman’s success. I do think it’s possible to do that without compromising the story.
I say this with humility and respect for the work you put into this site, your efforts to support women, and your support of country music in general. Keep on keepin on.
August 1, 2018 @ 11:00 am
Nobody had a problem with this article until it was run through the filter of Sarah Shook’s comments. Saving Country Music readers received it positively. Sarah Shook fans were receiving it positively, and sharing it on social media and tagging Sarah Shook in the process. Other women artists were sharing and liking the article as an example of a positive and inspiring story of a female artist making it in country music. Only after the post was politicized did it become controversial. That shows how critical perspective is to how news is consumed and shared.
On July 10th I posted an article called “Restrictions on Language Eroding Women’s Ability to Craft Narrative in Music.”
In it I explained how severe and politically-motivate restrictions on how we can broach women in music is directly resulting in less coverage for women, and marginalizing our ability to craft narrative around their music, making it more compelling. The issue with this article is EXACTLY this, to a ‘T.’ The point of the article was to create compelling narratives around Sarah Shook, and as can be seen in the comments section before Sarah Shook posted her comment, it was effective.
As commenter Dekon said above, “Sarah Shook is playing Labor Day weekend in Decatur GA but I was on the fence about going to see the band. After reading your article and re-listening to her latest album, I knew I would regret missing the show. Bought my tickets. Thanks for the timely article.”
The trolling and mischaracterization of articles on women in music is hurting the cause for women in music, period. You can’t write about them unless you coddle them, and only frame them in the context with which they want to be framed. That is bias, unethical, and unhelpful to their cause. I will not play ball.
August 1, 2018 @ 1:38 pm
Trigger, I get it. I get the dangers, etc. I also defended you above, and in numerous cases. You are a good writer, have sound logic, I totally get your point and in general you seem to me like an awesome human being. I personally just think it might be possible to avoid pitfalls like this without bowing to the other extreme. You are a journalist and I am not. I take that into consideration and respect that you have principles. I wish everyone did. My suggestion was meant, as stated, with humility and respect. It’s hard to walk the line between being critical and supportive sometimes, when discussing topics such as this. Apologies if you felt I was attacking you.
August 1, 2018 @ 1:49 pm
No worries ScottG. I appreciate what you’re saying, and didn’t feel like you were attacking me. I have contemplated this quite a bit, and I just feel like if we treat artists differently based on gender or anything else, we’re already systemically discounting them. Everyone has been geeked up these days by the media to look for reasons to enact internet road rage and blame the world’s problems on anyone but themselves. I have chosen not to participate.
July 31, 2018 @ 9:04 pm
If you’re that car ramrod guy Jesus Christ what an embarrassment.
August 1, 2018 @ 9:48 am
August 1, 2018 @ 5:33 am
No, Seth. It’s not the Honky Tonk Hustlas all over again. For starters, she’s not cursing Trigger out, threatening him with violence, or going after her own fans in the comment section.
August 1, 2018 @ 9:45 am
Her fans are and she’s encouraging it in the comments section. Take a look on Instagram
August 1, 2018 @ 10:07 am
And more along the lines of both artists are causing controversy for no reason so its similar to me but who cares? The whole thing is stupid. She never should have started bashing this site
North Woods Country
July 31, 2018 @ 2:38 pm
I intend to Spotify an album and possibly buy one, but from what I’ve heard, her voice does absolutely nothing for me.
July 31, 2018 @ 3:12 pm
Did you see this Trigger? https://www.facebook.com/sarah.m.shook/posts/10214563648596503
August 1, 2018 @ 5:40 am
Thin skinned comes to mind.
July 31, 2018 @ 3:51 pm
I just posted there to tell her how silly she is being. She’s basically showing everyone that she’s just like all these other pc bullshitters pretending to be outlaws. Scm has been promoting the fuck out of this chick and shes seriously hating? Wtf?
July 31, 2018 @ 4:13 pm
Well it appears she’s mildly immature and trigger triggered her talking about her boyfriend. Should we tar and feather in the name of SCM?
July 31, 2018 @ 4:28 pm
Are you saying I was too harsh?
July 31, 2018 @ 4:29 pm
But if I have to pick between one of the 2 then it’s scm all the way. This site has done more for country than Sarah could even dream of. Period.
July 31, 2018 @ 5:00 pm
There’s no competition between Sarah Shook and Saving Country Music, at least not from this side. I wrote this article to build her up and broader her name recognition. If she wants to take it differently, so be it. But I have no desire to start a beef. If I made any mistake here, it was expecting people to be able to read 27 paragraphs in this 280-charatcer world. But I worked really hard on it, and am happy how it turned out.
July 31, 2018 @ 5:05 pm
You shouldn’t feel bad. Their was nothing wrong with the article. If anything you were too kind with regards to the rating on the record. She’s like Margo Price but can’t sing.
July 31, 2018 @ 5:08 pm
Just like what has happened with many articles I’ve posted that at some point turn controversial, most everybody reacts positive to them until someone tells them to do otherwise. And because that person has a strong voice, people believe them instead of coming to their own judgements. I received NO negative reaction to this until Sarah Shook’s post. Nobody saw it as inappropriate or in poor taste.
July 31, 2018 @ 5:57 pm
Folks these days love to be victims and be offended. Just keep doing what you’re doing.
July 31, 2018 @ 4:56 pm
Now why is it that Tift Merritt can get her lovely foot into the door of this website only as a side note to Sidelong? Here is someone, I submit, who does her all (and that ain’t little) to save Country Music. Merritt’s merit ought not go unrecognized!
July 31, 2018 @ 5:48 pm
One of the underlying points to this article was to mention artists, players, and entities that often do not get enough credit for the efforts they expend to help launch an artist. I mentioned Tift Merritt on purpose, because you never know when a Sarah Shook fan might go “Hey, I wonder who that is,” and all of a sudden you’ve made a new connection, and a new fan. This article was littered with those references, and on purpose. I mentioned Dex Romweber and the Flat Duo Jets, The Accidentals, Sarah’s older projects, Eric Peterson’s older projects, AmericanaFest and the power it can have to help make connections in artist’s careers. Osmosis is often the way fans discover new artists.
I agree Tift Merritt is long overdue for a dedicated article on Saving Country Music, but I just checked and she’s been tagged 13 times in articles, and did receive a decent write up tied to a performance at Pickathon a few years ago.
August 1, 2018 @ 12:00 am
Am looking forward to that dedicated article!
August 19, 2018 @ 1:11 pm
I really appreciate all these references. Have noticed it some in the past (especially in the more “historical” pieces), and am happy to hear it’s intentional!
August 1, 2018 @ 7:57 am
Because she’s been about as relevant to country music as Grace Potter the last decade.
King Honky Of Crackershire
July 31, 2018 @ 6:11 pm
“They will tell you that women can’t make it in country music these days,”
Who? Who in the world says that, except you, Trig? You’re literally (not figuratively) the only person I’ve heard saying that. It’s nonsense.
King Honky Of Crackershire
July 31, 2018 @ 6:24 pm
Also, if Sarah Shook doesn’t make it, it’s because she can’t sing. It has nothing to do with her gender.
Please stop propagating this make believe issue. Please. It used to be beneath you.
July 31, 2018 @ 9:01 pm
Tomatos in the salad comes to mind. Seriously man what’s your agenda on this site?
King Honky Of Crackershire
August 1, 2018 @ 12:06 pm
I don’t know. What’s yours? I just enjoy some of the articles here, and feel compelled to throw my opinion in here or there.
August 1, 2018 @ 12:48 pm
I just like good country music and hate bullshit. If anyone doesnt like that or diagrees with me, I really don’t give a fuck.
August 1, 2018 @ 2:10 pm
Yeah, Seth. You and Sarah both don’t give a fuck…….. until you do. People that don’t give fucks don’t need to say it
August 1, 2018 @ 2:22 pm
That’s pretty hardcore Mike. Thanks for enlightening me.
July 31, 2018 @ 6:29 pm
I’m afraid of Sarah in most photos of seen …..like that screen shot above from “THE RING “.
So yeah ….that’s working too .
August 1, 2018 @ 7:25 pm
Yeah, she needs to learn to smile and stop trying to look tough- then getting all whiny and crap-it ain’t working.
Trigger, I think it’s a great write up per your usual- but, she sounds like all the rest of the girl singers and those stupid boots she wears are not attractive, she doesn’t smile and she’s got a few too many tattoos- I read her facebook page crap (posted above)- boo-hoo- nobody’s making you do it, sweetie.
August 3, 2018 @ 10:17 am
I don’t think Sarah Shook gives one flying fuck about whether or not you think her boots are attractive, and nor should she. Screening country singers for attractiveness and amiability is what got our genre in this mess it’s in to begin with.
August 3, 2018 @ 2:23 pm
Horseshit. Of course she cares. That’s why she is whining about Trigger’s article.
August 3, 2018 @ 4:08 pm
I fail to see why whining about this article (which I do think she is doing a bit, I know everyone mentioned in this article, and while Trigger might have overplayed Howie’s role, she is also underplaying it, along with some of the other commenters here) means she cares about what people on the internet think about her attractiveness. She does not, and that’s a good thing. Country music has way too many pretty people that know how to smile and don’t rock the boat. That ain’t Sarah Shook, and thank God for that. We need more like her.
August 3, 2018 @ 4:14 pm
I fail to see why her whining about this article (which I kinda agree that she’s doing. I know everyone mentioned in this article, and while Trigger might have overplayed Howie’s role, she’s also underplaying it, along with some of the other commenters here) means she cares about what people on the internet think about how she looks. She doesn’t, and that’s a good thing. Country music has way too many pretty folks that know how to smile and don’t rock the boat. That ain’t Sarah Shook, and thank God for that.
August 3, 2018 @ 4:16 pm
Hmm, thought my first reply didn’t post, and there it is. Sorry y’all.
August 1, 2018 @ 5:11 am
Trigger, I’ve just read her Instagram post. And I don’t understand what all the fuzz is about. All she said is was what she thought the article put to much emphasis on her former boyfriend.
It seems like some people think, that just because she gotten good reviews from you she has no longer the right criticize anything you write, that she should sit at your feet, being sweet and say yes and amen to everything you write? Of course not.
August 1, 2018 @ 6:08 am
I agree that there is some nuance in her words and she’s not quite flaming him like some of the anti-SCM twitter crowd. Still, not identifying the website or including a link and referring to him as “the author” seems a little passive aggresive to me. I checked out her website maybe late last year looking for info on her upcoming album and saw that there was still an excerpt from Trigger’s 2015 review of Sidelong. And now he’s “the author.” There’s enough info to find the article if one was so inclined, but it seems a lot of the commenters on Instagram and Facebook couldn’t be bothered .
August 1, 2018 @ 10:05 am
Sarah Shook has a right to react however she wants to the article, and I had a sense that perhaps some of the things I said would be less than pleasant for her to read in print. However I do take great exception to the idea that I did not give her proper credit for her own success in this article. That was just flat out inaccurate, and what stirred the underlying controversy. That said, I don’t condone anyone attacking her or trying to create some sort of “vs.” situation here.
I also agree with Jack Williams. ALWAYS name names. Sarah Shook had mentioned how a former boyfriend was the inspiration behind “Years” in dozens of articles, and can’t pretend it’s not part of the narrative around “Years.” All I did was say who that boyfriend was, which was an important piece missing in the narrative.
Way more disturbing than a few of the commenters here overreacting to Sarah Shook’s rebuttal is the idea that this article should be taken as an attack on Sarah Shook, or a reduction of her efforts. This is completely misinformed, and was ONLY whipped up as a perspective on this article AFTER Sarah Shook posted about it. People who came here organically had no problem with the article up to that point, including many Sarah Shook fans who liked, commented on it, and shared it on social media.
August 1, 2018 @ 10:15 am
Sorry but the narrative she was creating in the comments section is what pissed me off. She was encouraging her fans to say what she was afraid to. All that “men are horrible” stuff. Save it for when it’s called for and not to increase your followers
August 1, 2018 @ 12:21 pm
If you write an article about Curtis Eller you will need to devote 14 paragraphs to Nixon then because he wrote two songs about him.
August 1, 2018 @ 12:42 pm
“People who came here organically had no problem with the article up to that point, including many Sarah Shook fans who liked, commented on it, and shared it on social media.”
I also liked the article. And still do but it’s not what I think that matters.
It’s her reaction that counts.
“Sarah Shook has a right to react however she wants…”
Does she? If so, hasn’t this blown out of proportion. If she honestly feel that your article put to much emphasis on her former boyfriend. Why shouldn’t she say so? The other options would of course been not to write any respond on your article at all. Would that have been better?
I’m sorry Trigger, we have the hottest summer here in Sweden in 250 years…
So maybe I’ve got a heatstroke or something because I still don’t understand all this fuzz about her comment. 🙂
August 2, 2018 @ 12:27 pm
Yes it’s blown way out of proportion.
It’s a tempest in a tea pot.
Saw that you have had forest fires inside the arctic circle. Not good.
August 2, 2018 @ 12:52 pm
Yes there have been forest fires all over Sweden it’s been awful. But I think it’s under control now Over 70 percent in Sweden are covered by forest. It has hardly rain anything during three month. And we have had help, fighting the fires, from Poland, France and Italy…
August 1, 2018 @ 7:54 am
No mention at all of her songwriting skills and years of hard work, her stage presence and unique voice, leading a band of dudes to success. This piece is all about the men around Sarah, as usual. You can do better.
August 1, 2018 @ 8:57 am
I think you’ll find some of that here:
August 1, 2018 @ 10:08 am
I have been posting about Sarah Shook ad nauseum over the past three years, giving her immeasurable credit for her success. I posted the first ever review and feature on “Sidelong.” The idea that this article is simply a way to siphon off credit from Sarah to a bunch of swing dicks is politically-charged lunacy born through the filter of first reading Sarah’s post about the article instead of from an objective perspective.
This article was a specific zoom in on the Chapel Hill scene that gave rise to Sarah Shook. It would have been inappropriate and inaccurate not to delve into the contributions of John Howie Jr.
August 3, 2018 @ 5:46 pm
I think that’s the issue to be honest. I didn’t really get a sense of ‘her’ in this article but I was aware you have covered her in depth before and likely didn’t want to repeat yourself. As a standalone piece it could’ve covered that ground again. However you framed it in how YOU came to know Sarah Shook – which was through her ex whose music you have followed. It was him that put him on YOUR radar so you mention it and go into detail. You do give personal touches to your article which I really like as it is a sort of reporting from the front lines kinda thing rather than from some office tower. I thought it was an interesting piece which I learned from but I think the issue may be the title of the article. I was expecting an article on Sarah not the Chapel Hill scene so the expectations were a bit skewed. ‘The Chapel Hill scene and the Rise of Sarah Shook’ or something may have been more appropriate and I think that’s what her rant was kind of about. Obviously your intentions were good and of course didn’t intend to minimize her own contribution but to give some interesting history surrounding her and the scene she emerged from via her hard work etc. It certainly wouldn’t be right to ignore that aspect.
August 1, 2018 @ 8:24 am
In 2005 or so, I first heard of a band called The Knitters when they released an album called The Modern Sounds of The Knitters. The Knitters were fronted by John Doe and Exene Cervenka of the LA punk band X. Dave Alvin, solo artist and former songwriter/lead guitarist of the seminal roots rock band The Blasters, was on lead guitar. I loved that album and then sought out their 1985 album Poor Little Critter on the Road and love that one as well. Sidelong and Years pretty much scratch a similar itch for me. Love them both.
Red Dirt Dumb Ass
August 1, 2018 @ 11:01 am
Gave you a “like” for mentioning the Knitters. And here’s a “Thank you” to go with it.
August 1, 2018 @ 9:11 am
Trigger, I don’t really have any issues with the article.
I also don’t really have an issue with her response.
Let’s face it, it’s Sarah Shook.. She wears her heart on her sleeves.
It is one reason why she is what she is.
She never has said she is without some flaws, but despite them she is succeeding.
And her flaws, the acceptance of them, and her ability to write and perform with them really as a centerpiece are attracting a lot of people who identify with her.
Keep up the good work.. Don’t let this affect your AOTY selection either.
August 2, 2018 @ 9:27 pm
Very well put!
August 1, 2018 @ 9:50 am
Very much enjoyed her show last spring! Great tunes, the band has the perfect mix of finesse and fangs to bring it all to life in a fantastic way. She definitely is one of those people you see and hear her sing and just go “Whoa!”. This is real deal.
August 1, 2018 @ 9:57 am
Why is there so much about John Howie in an article about Sarah Shook? He was merely one of their previous drummers.
August 1, 2018 @ 10:13 am
That is a lie. See paragraphs 3 through 7. Your comment is the exact reason the detailed story of John Howie Jr. needed to be told.
August 1, 2018 @ 11:48 am
That makes absolutely no sense.
I followed Sarah years before Howie joined, not to be arrogant but I have intimate knowledge of the matter. He is a talented dude but did very little for her career in general. He was just a former drummer.
August 1, 2018 @ 12:09 pm
If John Howie Jr. was “just a former drummer,” then every single one of the times Sarah Shook cited the disillusion of her relationship with Howie Jr. as one of the primary inspirations for songs on “Years” in scores of interviews has been a lie. It doesn’t matter if those contributions are positive or negative. The dissolving of their relationship resulted in quality music, and that was the underlying arc of this narrative that too many people are too busy choosing sides and taking marching orders in fawning fandom to understand. You people and your insistence on politically-motivated subjectivity and slanting of history are destroying the magic and narrative around music, and the accurate portrayal of reality.
Also, you still have not clearly read article 3 through 7, because if you had, you’d know the ONLY credit I gave to Howie Jr. as far as a logistical aid to Sarah’s career was 1) playing drums for her 2) emailing Saving Country Music about the record. What really happens in article 3 through 7 is explaining the emergence of the country and roots scene in Chapel Hill, North Carolina which Sarah Shook sprang from, and it would have been irresponsible to not have mentioned John Howie Jr. in that context.
August 1, 2018 @ 12:22 pm
ps – not the slightest bit politically oriented, it just seemed really strange
August 3, 2018 @ 11:07 am
There’s no way you have “intimate knowledge” of any of this if you say something like “he was just a former drummer.” I live in Chapel Hill, and I’ve worked with John off and on for years. Howie is a really good, humble guy, who from what I’ve seen on social media is not too excited about being dragged into this. But he was the first drummer for the Disarmers, he was one of the founders of the band. Sarah Shook had no drummer before him. He played acoustic guitar on the first album as well, I think. They were a couple for years, they lived together for years, I used to see them with their sons at the grocery store in Carrboro all the time. They were a really big part of each others lives. Having his name on the project brought a lot of people into it locally, something I’ve also seen stated on social media. However you feel about this article, calling him “merely one of their previous drummers” is nuts. He was the only drummer they’d ever had before he quit, and he’s the only drummer they’ve released recordings with. Sarah Shook would have achieved success without him, but taking away from his role in the Disarmers is lame.
August 1, 2018 @ 10:42 am
Nothing about this article should have been offensive or controversial. But controversy will get her attention, so she might as well manufacture some fake outrage. This whole “I’m a strong woman who can make it on my own and if you think I was helped by a man you’re sexist” trope is dumb and tiresome. So what if her connection with Howie resulted in better music and more success than she’d otherwise have had? Stand strong, Trigger, and don’t bow to the low IQ mob who look for any chance to shriek about sexism.
Common Sense Bronson
August 1, 2018 @ 1:41 pm
I can’t get past her fake southern accent and over emphasizing it while tone deaf and flat ‘singing’… i wish her all the luck though. Bronson out
August 1, 2018 @ 2:12 pm
She grew up in NC, y’all.
August 1, 2018 @ 2:25 pm
She moved there when she was 18+…
August 1, 2018 @ 3:07 pm
When did she say that she grew up in NC, Hoss?
August 1, 2018 @ 6:07 pm
She’s evocative, limited, depressed, self-destructive. Skip James, Hank Williams, Kurt Cobain. I like it the way I think rust is important and interesting to look at.
August 3, 2018 @ 7:38 am
Sadly true Cornman. She seems to wallow in the negative. Some listeners compare her to punk at least in terms of the mood and aesthetic. Of course we all love a good country weeper , but she’s on another level. Kinda like a female Hank 3, in many ways. Sustainable? Not so sure.
Lydia loveless started out with a similar hardcore vibe that won her a following but kept her out of the superstar category. I’m seeing a similar deal with Shook.
August 1, 2018 @ 9:30 pm
Jesus …the guitar work on New Ways is spectacular , IMHO ….the whole track is …..it sounds superb from vocals on down . She reminds me of Loretta here .
August 2, 2018 @ 3:29 pm
All of his playing is deserves appreciation.
He is a treat to watch live.
August 2, 2018 @ 1:55 pm
You missed her being mentioned in Rolling Stone numerous times. Secondly, she may not have been born here, but she is no poser. I see nothing wrong on mentiong JH Jr and the NC scene. As for heartbreak, it is very real and a string that ties all her music together. All involved are highly talented and good folks https://www.rollingstone.com/music/music-country-lists/10-new-country-artists-you-need-to-know-july-2016-162589/sarah-shook-the-disarmers-93980/
August 4, 2018 @ 9:47 pm
I challenge Miss Shook to embark on a solo tour with just her and her guitar. She won’t do it, though, because no one would give a fuck. Her voice is anemic and her songs just ok. She’s no Tift Merritt.
Shook’s recordings sound really good though, thanks to the guitar work of Eric Peterson, a wizard who’s played / recorded with more rock oriented people like the db’s, Tommy Keene, Matthew Sweet, Flat Duo Jets and on and on for over 35 years. Personally, I feel his guitar work outshines her singing, and to think Eric didn’t help shape every aspect of the recording from demos, arranging, filagees, “extra bridge here” is ridiculous. Howie, who’s been writing / performing just as long, was also hugely influential in these recordings. But you’re not s’pose to know all that, right? It’s her face on the cover.
It’s funny how she was signed after having a cd with these two heavyweights as a calling card, and the label seeing them both in the band at the time. Now it seems she’s quite ready to say “Hey, this is all about me, I deserve all the credit, and anyone who thinks differently is sexist!”
Hmm, I wonder where she’d be without these men? It’s John Howie Jr. drumming on the recording some are touting as one of the best “country” releases of the year, and Eric Peterson’s guitar work on it is flawless and inspired. Of course, guys like that can play on just about anything and make it sound really good.
Best wishes on your career, Sarah. With any luck you’ll be the next Avril Lavigne!
August 5, 2018 @ 5:50 am
Oh, yeah. That’s just what she needs to do. Take up a challenge made by some anonymous, catty jerk made in an internet comments section.
Seriously, though. What a crock of shit. Her picture is nowhere to be found on the cover of the new album. So you could say that as she’s gotten more popular, she’s made it less about her. The name of her website is disarmers.com. And one of her complaints about the article was that there was little written about the current members of The Disarmers.
August 6, 2018 @ 12:48 pm
Ok ok ……….I gave the album 2 or 3 more spins and now I’m getting it a lot more. The whole “alt Country” off/key vibe is starting to click. Some nice little rhythms and toe tappers. Vocals are an acquired taste but maybe I’ve just acquired it? Mike Blackwell and Jim L above, yep sometimes you want something a little different. I don’t care about the argument above but she really shouldn’t be biting the hands that feed. Pissing and moaning about petty shit she should rise above and be thankful Trigs turning a lot of people on to her. I missed her when she was here in May, count me in next time she comes.
August 7, 2018 @ 7:49 pm
Facebook is the devil’s spawn and twitter and instagram are best confined to pictures of dawgs, old houses, album covers, and nature scenes. That’s my general rule and it makes for a much more tranquil existence. I’m just sayin’
August 7, 2018 @ 11:06 pm
I just saw some back and forth on Twitter. If I were her publicist, which I’m not, I’d tell her to be grateful for all the good press you’ve given her, and not just in this article. It seems a very odd fight to pick and comments like what I’ve seen tonight do not help our cause when it comes to women in music. Nor do they endear me to her. Too bad.
June 20, 2019 @ 8:32 pm
Hell ya. Just saw Sarah and the Disarmers at Blue OX 2019. Dynamic performance and the lyrics and music reflect the “real life” struggles in the classic tradition of Hank! Keep it up guys and gal. See you in July at the Cedar Cultural Center.
November 16, 2020 @ 4:34 am
I stumbled a cross this as I just got bCk home in upstate south Carolina from a weekend trip to gatlinburg, due to wrecks on Hwy 40, I ended up in Clyde NC, to my surprise I found a “Shook museum . And a little boutique I’m pretty sure owned and operated by witches…lol just kidding but there was a lot of bundled sage and funky gemstones in there . Intrigued by museum named after my last name I started searching it and I found Sarah Shook’s music and articles here. I just wonder if we’re related somehow. And I found little to no information about this museum. Where I live in Spartanburg shook is a pretty uncommon last name, this could be different outside of here I’m just seeking answers I guess. I dig The music , Sarah reach out to me and tell me some kind of bad ass history about our last name ha ha