Woman singing at a mic

Six Miles to Nellie's Courtney DeCosky and John Schnabel at the Shrunken Head

There are two ways to watch a show at the Shrunken Head Rock 'n Roll Club. The first is grabbing some dinner with some friends and heading over just in time to buy a drink before things get going. Sit at a table and sneak off before midnight. It’s not a bad life.

There is another way. You can show up by yourself in the late afternoon for the Head’s “happiest hour” and get yourself involved with their absurdly cheap draft beer and whiskey special. If you survive that you can stick around for their regular happy hour, and by the time the music starts you’ll be sitting criss-cross applesauce on the second stage wondering why your left eye has stopped working. This is poor decision making, especially if you are intending to write a review. But hey, what else were you going to do that’s so important anyway?

The first band tonight is Six Miles to Nellie, a six-piece country-rock band from Mt. Vernon, Ohio. Front person Courtney DeCosky sings like a house on fire. I’m not sure what I like more – her lead singing or the harmonies she drops over guitarist John Schnabel when he takes a turn at vocals. Wow – when she goes high look out.

The rest of the band is rock solid, and the drummer appears to play every instrument known to personkind. There is a little bit of gospel revival in this music – an element of joy that too often is missing from the secular world. I’m on the record as saying that Americana is not a thing, and this is doubly true when your guitarist is rocking a gold top. If it did exist, though, Six Miles would be it.

Halfway through their set they do a spot-on cover of Warren Zevon’s “Poor Poor Pitiful Me” with DeCosky smashing a cowbell. They use the Jackson Browne lyrics for the last verse – some good lines but it’s hard for me to hear that tune without “I don’t want to talk about it.” Still, it makes me so happy to hear the Excitable Boy’s music being played live.

Next up are the Black River Gypsies, who were my reason for coming out tonight. I’m partial to their guitar player, Andy Fredrick, who is one of the last pure blues slashers. I’ve been watching this band since they were calling themselves the Tin Hearts in the late ‘00’s. Their songs about guns, deserts, and hundred-dollar bills still do the trick for those of us who occasionally fall asleep watching spaghetti westerns.

I was pleasantly surprised to find out that the Gypsies have added a new singer, Lily St. Clair. St. Clair’s voice reminds me of Oh Wonder’s Josephine Vander Gucht. She’s a great counterpart to singer/guitarist Matt Sullivan’s growl, and definitely someone to watch in her own right.

The final act is Push Me Pull Me. These guys had absolutely smoked the song “Turnstyled Junkpiled” at last year’s TVZ tribute and I was looking forward to hearing some of their original stuff. Push Me is a four-piece with the improbable setup of accordion, drums, keys, and heavily distorted guitar. Don’t for a second let the accordion fool you into thinking that this band is even in the same hemisphere as a square dance. This is powerful, ethereal rock music with gorgeously arranged vocal harmonies. Keyboardist Leslie Dower’s crystal soprano paired with Accordionist Erika Holycross’ lower register gives a sound which is somehow both ambient and soulful.

A song that stood out to me was a haunting number called Fire on the Mountain (not the Grateful Dead or Marshall Tucker Band tune). It was striking enough that I looked it up on their web page when I got home. It’s totally worth a listen.

Three hours of good music ain’t bad for a cold sleet filled night in Vic Village. Probably looking at quite a headache tomorrow though.

The Black River Gypsies at the Shrunken Head

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