Well I see you got your nose in the dirty music blogs once again when you probably should be paying attention at work or knocking out that honey do list. So what are you in the mood for? A little country soul? Or how about some banging hardcore Southern rock, or earnest Americana? Well the Shaker Hymns are here to try and itch your scratch no matter what you may be hankering with a debut record called The Ties That Bind.
Straight out of the Texas music heartland where they’ve sold who knows how much Lone Star and Shiner while holding court on the stage of the Cheatham Street Warehouse in San Marcos where folks like, I don’t know, George Strait and Stevie Ray Vaughan got their start, the Shaker Hymns behind frontman and songwriter Nyles Robakiewicz want to see if they can launch their own legacy by self-releasing ten songs that put on display some serious Southern musical chops.
It’s probably best to consider the Shaker Hymns a Texas Southern Rock band to start. Envision Whiskey Myers, but maybe a little less serration in the tones, and a bit more soul and dedicated attention to songwriting. There’s not really a song on The Ties That Bind that if you pay attention to the lyrics specifically you won’t be impressed with. And some will outright tear at your heart. But how they come across keeps you on your toes for sure.
Since you’ve landed on a country site here, let’s start with what might be the best track on the record (though maybe that’s bias talking), which is the story of a lovesick man pining for a lost woman called “Not Alone.” The crying steel guitar will bring you to your knees if the words of this classic duet style country song don’t. But that’s about as traditional country as the Shaker Hymns get here folks. From there it’s the Muscle Shoals soul of “How To Love,” or the more familiar Texas country rock styles of “Just Fine” or “Rain in Fort Worth.”
This is one of those albums where you almost feel like the singer is spying on you in the way the songs and stories nestle right down in your personal little world, especially if you’re going through a breakup or just did, or like everyone else aside from those well-adjusted bastards, have gone through a breakup in the past. It’s not that Nyles Robakiewicz is a mind reader, it’s just that he knows how to frame emotions in music in a way that’s resonant and universal. The Shaker Hyms feel like the next great Texas music band, and Robakiewicz the next great songwriter and frontman in the scene.
But be prepared as you pour yourself into The Ties That Bind to be blindsided by some full tilt hard rock, starting with “Dodging Bullets.” That’s possibly where these young men inch just out of their comfort zone and native sound, and leave the gift of great songwriting behind. The other hard rock song “What I’ve Become” is where they get it much closer to right, showcasing the power of Robakiewicz’s voice instead of resorting to screams.
As fun as the blazing rock songs may be, the melody of “As I Am” is where this band feels like they sit down in a pocket made for them and them alone, or when they let the songwriting rise above everything else, like in the acoustic track “Bloomfield,” this is what feels like should define the boundaries of their sound, instead of testing the limits of heavy metal. It’s one of a number of songs that has some calling Nyles Robakiewicz a burgeoning version of some of the top Americana songwriters.
The Shaker Hymns are still forging and experimenting with their sound a bit after releasing an EP in 2017. Trying it all out to see what sticks and sells is not a bad thing, while they’re already pushing ahead of many of their peers in the nascent levels of Texas music with a record that is well-produced, will be well-received, and is an unexpected but welcome addition your heartbreak and good times arsenal during an otherwise shitty year.
Turn it up the Shaker Hymns and The Ties That Bind, and enjoy.
1 3/4 Guns Up (8/10)
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This is a streaming only release.