Dawn Shipley and the Sharp Shooters, a Los Angeles based band, have a sound that is unique and inspiring, bringing in new fans each time they play. There is one good reason for thisâ€”darn good music. The music is mostly upbeat and fun, a mixture of rockabilly, hillbilly and rock-n-roll with elements of traditional rhythm and blues, jazz and honky tonk. The songs generally tell stories of love and loss, some humorously, some not so humorously. Overall, the stories are ones that most anyone can identify with, but written with Dawnâ€™s quirky twist, which keeps each of them from being just another love song.
The vocal stylings of this Texas-born and raised sweetheart are strong and warm, blending her own emotion and personality with stylings of Patsy Cline, Janis Martin, Barbara Pittman, Connie Francis and more. Dawn was raised in a musical family where she learned to sing and play piano early on in life. Before she can remember, she was singing in church choir. Her grandmother had a piano and gave her instructional books, teaching her a few key lessons (where middle â€œCâ€ was, etc), and Dawn took off with it, playing as much as she possibly could. She generally got into playing classical, as that is what was at her disposal, though her love of singing was still in the forefront, and she wrote what she considers silly little songs throughout her childhood.
It wasnâ€™t until the mid 1990â€™s that Dawn found her true love musically. Though her mom loved Merle Haggard, Conway Twitty and the likes as she was growing up, she shunned these artists, trying to find her own likes in the musical world. After getting bored with the industrial and alternative styles she was currently listening to, Dawn finally stumbled upon some good roots music in Austin, Texas, her stomping ground at the time. The people she met through the bands she started seeing on a weekly basis opened up a new world, and brought her back to the country artists she had initially shunned. Her eyes were re-opened to everything sheâ€™d been brought up with, and she saw things in a new light, feeling more at home with the music than ever, at home enough that Dawn describes the time in her life as finding her place in the world. Other early styles of music where introduced to her as well, including western swing, bluegrass, rhythm and blues, hillbilly and rockabilly. Dawn quickly emerged herself in 78 rpm records and learning as much as possible about her new musical world. With her musical background, it was only a matter of time until she started writing and playing her own material, though doing it in public was a little more difficult!
She did, however, start sitting in with the local Austin bands such as Teri Joyce, Roger Wallace, T Jarrod Bonta, Dale Watson, and Marti Brom, in places like Ginnyâ€™s Little Longhorn (a place which defines the Austin honky-tonk music scene), Egoâ€™s, Jovitaâ€™s, and the Continental Club. But it wasnâ€™t until a move to Los Angeles, California in 2000, that Dawn finally was ready to really open herself up to the world. She found a few guys willing to help her out, and the rest is history.
Dawn Shipley and the Sharp Shooters played their first show (under a slightly different name) at a 4th of July house party in 2001, then moved to opening for the Paladins the following September. That was the start of a career that had them playing all of the local LA hotspotsâ€”The Derby, The Dollhut, Crazy Jackâ€™s, the Rumble Bar, the Devilâ€™s Punchbowl, etc. They moved on to play shows in Seattle (Seattleâ€™s annual Shake the Shack Rockabilly Ball 2 years in a row), Las Vegas (Viva Las Vegas 7), San Francisco, Phoenix, Chicago (American Music Festival), Detroit, Cleveland, Indianapolis, Portland, San Antonio and more. They have shared the stage with acts such as Rosie Flores, Roger Wallace, Big Sandy, James Intveld, Deke Dickerson, Wanda Jackson, Lee Rocker, Glen Glenn, Robert Gordon, and more.
Their first cd, â€œStep It Upâ€ (Shot Oâ€™Clock Records), was released in 2003. It was an adventure in live recording at the accomplished Mark Neillâ€™s studio in San Diego. Mark did a wonderul job of giving the songs a very raw and traditional feel. The sound is raw, but warm, with booming vocals that flood your system. The cd includes 8 of Dawnâ€™s charming originals as well as a contribution by Timmy Campbell, one of the masterful contemporary Austin songwriters, and 2 covers from female Sun rockabilly artists Barbara Pittman and Patsy Holcomb. The cd got good reviews, with the Blue Suede News episode #65 summing up the cd with â€œâ€¦think a more rockinâ€™ Patsy Clineâ€¦â€¦Dawn Shipleyâ€™s Sharp Shooters hit the target every time and deliver an excellent blend of â€˜50â€™s honky tonk and Rockabilly in a very authentic fashionâ€¦â€
Their newest release, â€œBaby If Iâ€¦â€ takes a slightly different approach and shows that the band has reached a new level of maturity. It is apparent in the songs that the band has become even more comfortable in adding their own personality to the many influences they draw from, creating a unique and enticing sound and separating them from the run-of-the-mill rockabilly artists that only recreate the traditional sounds.
The cd includes 10 of Dawnâ€™s originals that encompass a great expanse of styles: the faster-tempoed, almost frantic rockabilly songs, â€œBaby If Iâ€ and â€œAnyone But Youâ€; â€œMakebelieveâ€, a slow and simplistic 2-beat honky tonk number resembling early styles such as Webb Pierce and early Patsy Cline numbers (Dawn wrote the song while emerged in a Patsy Cline listening spree); a couple 60â€™s surf tunes, â€œBear With Me Babyâ€ (also featured on the Bear Family 30th anniversary boxed set), and â€œYouâ€™re the Only Oneâ€; a couple rockabilly numbers with a bit of hillbilly flair: â€œSealed With a Kissâ€ and â€œFull Moon Keeps On Shiningâ€; the â€œhip-hopâ€ rockabilly song â€œMy Rockinâ€™ Babyâ€ (originally written for a short film soundtrack); and the more contemporary honky-tonk sounding â€œEmpty Stretch of Highwayâ€ that has a mysterious and isolating feel that is enhanced by the addition of the baritone guitar that is sure to make you feel like youâ€™re the one â€œâ€¦driving your memâ€™ry awayâ€¦â€ (donâ€™t forget to listen to the even more mesmerizing slower, raw version of the song); and to top it off, â€œGoinâ€™ Crazyâ€ is a Fever-ish jazz number that you would expect to hear in a dark and smoky jazz joint.
The Sharp Shooters also perform an instrumental written by Joel Morin, â€œSharp Shootinâ€™â€, that showcases Joelâ€™s strong steel guitar and Merle Travis style picking. The song is an upbeat hillbilly number that Joel describes as a meeting between Speedy West and Merle Travis. It shows the strong skills of all the Sharp Shooters (Joel Morinâ€”guitars, Tony Maciasâ€”bass and backing vocals, and Tony DeHerreraâ€”drums) that is sure to gain your respect for these musicians.
Covers on â€œBaby If Iâ€¦â€ include a pumped up version of Buddy Hollyâ€™s â€œGonna Set My Foot Downâ€ thatâ€™s sure to get your feet tapping, Glen Glennâ€™s â€œOne Cup of Coffeeâ€ done in a slower but very powerful manner, making it their own, and an amazing and unique version of Patsy Clineâ€™s â€œCrazy Dreamsâ€. It includes the acoustic Texas shuffle beat that defines the song, an accompanying baritone riff that adds to the uniqueness of the version, as well as accents on the steel guitar, the strong Telecaster sound of Joel Morin, and backing vocals byTony Macias. Itâ€™s a revitalization of a classic and defining, but often overlooked, honky-tonk number.
Throughout the cd it is apparent that the musicians are capable and confident, with the ability to build a world of sound that will encompass each and every listener and draw in even the least likely of fans. And who could resist Dawnâ€™s sweet voice, accompanied with that gigantic smile?