The genre of southern rock had been moribund and dormant until the ascendance of bands such as Cross Canadian Ragweed, Whiskey Myers and Blackberry Smoke. Despite the best efforts of bands such as Copper Chief and Midnight River Choir, the sub genre has ebbed and flowed around these parts as it has throughout much of the country. Those bands got country and funky to break through. Southern rock has mostly been relegated to the novelty, county fair, discount bin of the music world as bands like Skynyrd shed original members but kept playing the same songs. The freshness of the bands listed above and their take on the style, infused with modern lyrics and classic riffs gave southern rock a new life. Ragweed and Whiskey Myers caused the Renaissance of the style in Texas and inspired the generation that came up behind them to pick up the torch and light their own musical fires.
There have been many bands to play in that style, but I haven’t heard one emulate it and create their own vision of it with the verve and originality of Shaker Hymns. The San Marcos based band is led by Nyles Robakiewicz, an adept and versatile stylist both with his voice and six strings. As an ace guitarist, Robakiewicz has learned when to step on the pedal and when to throttle back. He does the same with his voice, alternating between howls, aches and straightforward gut punches. His voice crosses strains of William Clark Green with the bombast of Bon Scott. It’s all done with soul.
After an EP drop in 2017 and a few batches of songs here and there, the band has now released its first full length album, entitled The Ties That Bind. A 10 song collection that features all of what Shaker Hymns do well. There is rock, there is country, there is “Texas Country”, there’s a little bit of folk…and some more rock. “Rain in Fort Worth” should become a Texas Radio staple and the lyrics of “Right or Wrong” ring more poignant than most new songs have a right to. “How to Love” is the slow jam its title made it destined to be with the strongest showcase of Robakiewicz’s vocals. Yet, just as when I have seen them live, it is when they are gritty, greasy and loud that they are at their best. “Dodging Bullets” and “What I’ve Become” rock as hard as anything out there in 2020 and Robakiewicz’s voice is the perfect complement to his guitar.
The tones, themes and sounds the band creates aren’t new, but they are fresh. This is a band and frontman who are taking the lessons of the past and putting them through the grinder of the present to come out with something all their own. This isn’t a perfect debut record, but the foundation has been laid and everyone should be on notice. Bands such as this normally catch on outside of Texas before blowing up in Texas, don’t get left off the Shaker Hymns train.