North Carolina-based country badass Sarah Shook along with the Disarmers, her talented band of veteran musicians, have spent the past few years building a dedicated and expanding fanbase. After self-releasing their debut album Sidelong in 2015, the band signed with Bloodshot Records who reissued it to a wider audience in 2017. The album was a defiant, rough-around-the-edges, genre-defying mix of country, rockabilly, Americana, and rock n’ roll delivered with a solid punk attitude. It managed to catch the attention of fans and critics while providing a gritty kick to the pop country music landscape.
Now, after multiple attention grabbing performances at the 2018 SXSW Music Festival, Sarah Shook & the Disarmers have returned with their sophomore album, Years, which successfully captures the hard drinking outlaw attitude of their debut while adding a more measured, cleaner level of production. The release was celebrated with a hometown Friday night party at Cat’s Cradle, and we made sure we were there…
Even before the band took the stage, the weekend crowd at the Cradle was crackling with energy and ready to cut loose. When the lights dropped and Sarah Shook & the Disarmers took the stage, they were met them with loud approving cheers that faded only as the band kicked into “Good As Gold,” the opening track from Years, which was followed by “Heal Me” from Sidelong. Sarah exuded a casual charisma as she stood center stage and belted out the songs in her distinctive warm and world-weary tone. The Disarmers, consisting of Eric Peterson on guitar, Aaron Oliva on standup bass, Phil Sullivan on pedal steel, and Kevin McClain behind the drums, provided a rock-solid sonic backdrop capable of turning on a dime and matching Shook step for step. When she wasn’t singing or chatting with crowd Sarah tended to wander among her bandmates sharing knowing glances with each of them, none more so than Eric Peterson, as the two would often gravitate toward each other, trading guitar licks and smiles.
As evening progressed, more of the new songs were given a run out including, an aching “Parting Words,” the honky-tonk flavored “Damned If I Do, Damned If I Don’t,” and the resolute “New Ways to Fail.” Shook and the Disarmers played with a focused energy and determination that solidly resonated with the hometown crowd. Throughout the evening, friends and fans cheered, danced, and yelled out encouragement. By the time the set ended with “Years,” Sarah and the band had managed to cover the entire new album, before returning for a double-shot encore of fan favorites from Sidelong, “Dwight Yoakam,” and “The Nail.”
Sarah Shook has matured as a singer, and her vocals sound noticeably stronger. Both she and the Disarmers have benefitted from extended touring in the wake of Sidelong. As they head back out on the road behind Years they are a tight cohesive group firing on all cylinders. If you have an opportunity to catch one of their shows, do it… You won’t be sorry. It’s a Hell of a good time!
Opening the show at Cat’s Cradle fell to Chapel Hill’s playful garage rockers, Spider Bags. The trio consisting of frontman and guitarist Dan McGee, bassist Steve Olivia, and drummer Rock Forbes delivered a condensed set of raucous fuzzed-out angry garage rock guitar, mixed with a psychedelic energy, and wrapped around a jangly pop core. They played fast and loose immediately hooking the crowd with their instantly familiar sound. Spider Bags, despite having released the album Frozen Letter on the venerable indie powerhouse label Merge Records back in 2014, are criminally underrated. Do yourself a favor and check them out.
Sarah Shook & the Disarmers + Spider Bags @ Cat’s Cradle – April 6th 2018