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RC and the NightShades release new CD Friday night at Brothers’

Ronn Crowder says he and the band originally wanted to do a blues album of several standard blues tunes.

“We were thinking of calling it ‘New Old Blues.’  Somewhere along the way, we decided that name was fairly lame, and were looking for another title.”

After recording the basic tracks for ‘Key to the Highway,’ one of the aforementioned standard blues songs, Crowder thought the tracks were pretty good and said, “Hey with those tracks to work with, I have it made in the shade.”

Bingo, Crowder said. The new title was realized.

Friday, RC and the NightShades will release “Made in the Shade” during a special party and performance at Brothers’ BBQ.

The concept remained the same, he says — they still did blues songs, but it did open up other genres to be included.

“So we did some R&B and one real old country song. We also explored the relationship between blues and country with the old Texas country-blues song ‘Singin the Blues.’”

The songs were chosen for their appeal to the band members and were done in their own style familiar to NightShades fans — strong vocals, melodic lead solos and high-quality recordings.

Other than Crowder on harmonica, guitar and vocals, the band includes: Skeets Pennington, horns and vocals; Steve DiMartino, drums; Gene Noel, bass; Lindsay Olive, lead guitar; Gerald Haile, keyboards.

Guest musicians on the album include world-renowned virtuoso trumpeter Vince DiMartino on trumpet, cornet and piccolo trumpet; jazz singer Jessie Laine Powell;  iconic Kentucky musician Roger BonDurant on guitars and vocals; and Chase Fleming on trombone.

“One of my favorite songs on the album is ‘Flashback Blues,’ written by John Prine. Originally a country-folksy song done by Prine, we turned it into a Dixieland jazz piece. Skeets Pennington did all the horns on this song except trombone by Chase Fleming.”

Crowder says the band had a chance to further explore the blues influences of country and even gospel music, and how they are all very similar in structure and even lyrical themes.

“I have always held that blues and country are kissing cousins. So much alike that some country songs are called blues in their titles and lyrics, such as Hank Williams’ ‘Lovesick Blues’ and ‘Long Gone Lonesome Blues.’ The country-blues connection was originated by artists like Jimmy Reed and Robert Johnson and even earlier blues legends like the Mississippi Sheiks, who wrote ‘Sittin’ On Top Of The World,’ the final song on our album.”

The song “Let It Be Me” was originally recorded by the Everly Brothers, and the vocal duet between Crowder and Jessie Laine Powell was 22 years in the making.

“Exactly 22 years before the recording, I was doing my solo act in a restaurant in Lexington where Jessie Laine (pre-marriage) worked as a waitress. She heard me singing and sang along with me at times. When I heard her great voice, I invited her up to the mic and we sang ‘Let It Be Me’ for the first time. Roll forward 22 years. She married, had a child and became an award-winning jazz singer with many accolades and much success as a recording artist.”

Crowder had not seen her in all that time, but when he decided to record the song, he was unable to find another female singer who could do justice to the part. He kept thinking about the singing waitress who did it so well and did a Facebook search and located Laine. Fortunately she remembered him and agreed to make the recording.

“Both of us feel that it was providential that we were brought back together,” Crowder says, adding DiMartino is also featured on the song.

The one original song on the album was written by Crowder, “Broken Heart Blues.”

“A portrait of a man who wallows in the blues, indulging in self-pity and running away. He uses his broken heart as the excuse for giving up. At song’s end, his problem is still unresolved as he tearfully drives away into the night. Who knows what may happen next? His broken heart rules his life.”

Crowder says the one pure country song has a back story too.

“I was in Memphis visiting my 92 year-old mom, telling her about the new record. She asked me if I ever did one of her favorite songs, ‘He’ll Have To Go,’ made famous by Gentleman Jim Reeves who died in the plane crash that killed Patsy Cline and Hawkshaw Hawkins.” Crowder was familiar with the song and by chance had taken his portable recording system with him on the trip. So that night, he recorded the song on four tracks with vocals and two guitar parts.

“The next day,  I gave Mom a copy of the rudimentary recordings. She was thrilled. So when I got back to Kentucky, I played the recording for NightShades drummer Steve DiMartino who said it was a good recording and that he could add drums to the tracks done in the hotel in Memphis. So we did. We added bass, and all the other instruments and background vocals in the studio. It was a very unconventional approach for making a record, but in this case it worked.”

IF YOU GO

RC and the NightShades play 8 p.m.-midnight Friday at Brothers’ BBQ, 464 S. Fourth St.  for a special CD release party. “Made in the Shade” will be available for purchase.

SO YOU KNOW

Guest musicians on the new album include world-renowned trumpeter Vince DiMartino.