I was happily surprised when I learned that Shawn Starski was joining forces with Kelley Hunt for some gigs, and they would be on the October Blues Cruise. For me it would be interesting to see Shawn in new surroundings from when I last saw him as part of Jason Ricci & New Blood.
It was quite a pleasure, this young man has all the tools and talent to become quite the guitarist. Working with the Kelley Hunt Band, he was given a framework of the songs and he was more than able to layer in his own sound and yet incorporate it into the bluesy-soulful template of her band. In fact it worked out so well that Shawn was asked to play on her upcoming release ‘Gravity oves You‘ (look for it to hit the streets on January18th, 2011 on 88 Records). Cruisers were thrilled to have a chance to see him again, as well as to see him in a new environment. To a person they all agreed that Shawn was outstanding and fit right in while adding his own skills to the mix.
Determined to stay positive after the demise of his seven year association with Jason Ricci, Shawn is excited about what opportunities await him and the band. Stating that they have always been a solid band, and that they have been keeping their noses in the music in various forms, from New York to Nashville and Memphis, they are now ready to test their mettle and take the road as a unified force. The seven years of working with Jason helped Shawn grow as a musician and writer. He wrote about half of the original music, giving direction the band as a whole, and he was very happy with that role – never expecting to have to look for new employment as a musician.
His work with Kelley has opened not only his eyes, but ears to what is possible in music. He found that the piano created a freedom for his guitar playing that he had never experienced before. That plus the arrangements and song writing skills of Kelley, allowed him to put his part into it. That was a very pleasing change to experience and he has learned that change is a good thing, for without change one runs the risk of becoming stagnant. This in no way takes away from his prior work, he is rock solid proud of the accomplishments and directions taken in the past but the change has brought about new excitement and countless opportunities for him and his band mates. With him living in Nashville he is busy making contacts with the thriving musician community there, picking brains and striving to ‘refine’ his sound in a studio setting and, as always, working on his craft as a guitarist, always learning and practicing.
The Shawn Starski Band features essential parts of ‘New Blood‘ with Todd ‘Buck Weed’ Edmunds on bass, tuba, double bass and sousaphone, and Byron Cage on drums, who has deep roots in gospel and has expanded in the past few years into almost all reaches of music. A nice addition is Ms. Ellen Deible, from Nashville, who provides vocals and a pleasing stage presence to what he termed as ‘Blues Americana’. As a writer Shawn always tries to write music for the band – by this he means creating songs that plays to the strengths of the members, and allows them to create their own parts, all with the goal of creating a new sound for the band. When we spoke he had just finished a gig in Cincinnati at the Play by Play, thanks to Willie Grey and family who were very helpful in that regard. Coming off that success, he is set to hit sunny Florida with gigs through the end of December 2010, to play their music and, as he laughingly put it , “see what kind of noise they can make”. Looking into next year, Shawn will continue doing some gigs with Kelley Hunt, and then continue to book clubs, festivals and more for his band into 2011.
Several bits of exciting bit of news surfaced from our little talk (not in any order);
1) Shawn has a new release, featuring original songs as well as reworked versions of familiar tunes, that he will be making available at his gigs. This release was produced by Phil Wolfe, who also produced ‘Done With The Devil’.
2) Shawn and Ellen just recently got engaged. Congrats. Let’s wish them all the love and happiness in the Blues world.
So it seems that life is good for Shawn and looks to be even better in the future.
You too can catch up with Shawn at his web site for details on his tour and other info by visiting his web site: http://www.shawnstarski.com/Site/Home.html
Until Next Time
Love, Peace & Chicken Grease
photos courtesy: chefjimi, artist