Sarah Shook Shakes Up Outlaw Country

Sarah Shook and the Disarmers play Gypsy Sally’s on Aug. 18. Photo: Adam Hajnos

Sarah Shook grew up in a strict home where the only music permitted was classical or worship. A friend turned her on to old country music in her early 20s, and she fell in love with the sound and the self-deprecating lyrics. She had sung in a chorale group and taught herself to play guitar, so writing country songs was a natural step, “based on what little life experience I had at the time,” she said recently.

Fast forward through a couple of bands to 2015, when Sarah Shook and The Disarmers self-released the CD “Sidelong.” The songs were personal and raw with raucous guitars, hell-raising vocals and an outlaw country attitude that made people take notice.

After a year of glowing grassroots praise, the powerhouse roots label Bloodshot Records re-released “Sidelong” earlier this year.

Signing with Bloodshot upped the ante for the band. “It’s a completely different life which is kind of weird but also exciting,” said Shook. One change is a busier touring schedule, which brings Shook and her band to Gypsy Sally’s on Aug. 18 (with Valley Queen.)

It also meant a more focused approach to her next album, which the band recently finished recording. Shook said she drank throughout the recording sessions for “Sidelong,” but stayed sober this time around. “I had so much more control in my voice, and every bit as much feeling,” she said. That’s a promising preview for anyone who loves unvarnished outlaw country.

Charles Walston sang and wrote songs for the alt-country band The Vidalias..

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