Ramblin' With Shawn Nelson

Austin Country-Rocker Jams at Borski’s this Weekend
Mark Williams | Music Editor

Good rockin’ country music rolls down from Central Texas into Montgomery County on Saturday night, as Shawn Nelson & The Ramblers play Borski’s Tavern (I-45 at Shepherd Hill Rd., Willis, 936-344-6212). A Houston native, Nelson hit the road at an early age to pursue his dreams of being a singer-songscribe, pit stopping in Nashville before returning home to the Lone Star State -- this time to Austin where the Ramblers were born.

Nelson grew up with a wide array of influential sounds: Willie Nelson, Hank Williams, George Strait -- but being a Houston boy, Nelson had access to the sounds of New Orleans; a trip to the Big Easy at age 7 inspired the young Nelson play trombone. Soon, he was playing with jazz and concert bands across Texas -- winning awards while gaining vital experience along the way. As he grew into a young man, Nelson’s music found even more diverse influences: the Grateful Dead and the Rolling Stones, the Southern fried Allman Brothers and reggae martyr Bob Marley all proved to be “profound influences” on Nelson’s music, which encompasses “threads of country, blues and rock, all combined with a strong undercurrent of groove.”

Following his graduation from UT in Austin, Nelson worked for a music publishing company and a record label in Nashville, soon coming to the realization that playing music was much more important to him than promoting it. Like many musicians with different ideas about country music, Nelson found Nashville a tough row to hoe: “It is good for songwriters and studio musicians, because there is work there and I learned alot about writing songs,” says Nelson, “but I wasn't polished enough to stick around, so I moved back to Austin to pursue music in a more natural habitat.” Nelson’s musical philosophy is simple: “Write lyrics with intent and back them with solid melodies. I want to create songs that are strong enough to be sung by anybody.”

Nelson got lucky in 2004 when he formed the Ramblers, a four-man combo that makes his original compositions sound great: Joe Faulhaber on lead guitar, keyboard man Louie Landry, Shaun Dickerson on bass and drummer Mooke Mayrath. “We all just came together from different bands and projects that were coming to an end. Mooke was the drummer in my last Austin band, but this one is just a better fit. We’re playing a lot more shows and are doing more on the road, but we still have our day jobs. Right now, we’re trying to figure out how to make a living at this. You can definitely call us a working man’s band.”

Nelson and members of the Ramblers refer to their unique sound as “Fonky-Tonk”, which Nelson describes as a “mix of funk, rock and country,” but says that the band “is more focused on the spirit of the music than what it’s called.”

The band’s self-titled debut album is bursting with “echoes of blues, rock and country [that] consistently creates an original, yet familiar sound that captivates its listeners with well-crafted songs, high harmonies and groove laden melodies.” These are no silly pop songs but rather real tunes with real meaning; Nelson’s lyrics captivate the listener as each song paints its own unique picture.

The Ramblers stand out strong as well: from guitar swells you’d swear were a pedal steal to the clavinet solos you’d bet you last dime was an electric guitar, Shawn Nelson has enlisted some real talent for this band -- and it definitely shows in the end product. The band’s debut album is all over the web: download it at I-Tunes, Napster mp3tunes.com or order the album from CD Baby; also check out the band’s website at shawnnelsonmusic.com…