Patty Hurst Shifter – Mama was a rolling stone
One of Murphy’s lesser-known laws states that the best stories always come after the recorder is shut off. This time out, there was the one about Chris Smith, frontguy and lyricist for Patty Hurst Shifter, camping in line for two days to get second row center seats for the Rolling Stones, only to have his mother decide to get married on the same day as the concert. “To this day, my mother loves me, and I’ve still never seen the Stones,” offers Smith, revealing how it all turned out.
But there were also good stories shared while the recorder was running, such as drummer-turned-bassist Johny Williams’ recounting of the band’s origin. Impressed by up-and-comer Smith’s coffeehouse gigs, local band veterans Williams (Glory Fountain, the Lubricators with a pre-6 String Drag Kenny Roby) and Marc Smith (34 Satellite among others) were interested in putting him in front of a band.
They set their sights on opening for the Drive-By Truckers at a Raleigh show. Previous Truckers visits hadn’t exactly packed clubs, and Williams and his cohorts figured they could help. “The original impetus for forming the band was that we each knew 20 people who would come see us,” Williams recalls.
That one-off turned into a couple more-offs and, soon, a recording opportunity. The Smiths aren’t brothers, but in the studio they weren’t afraid to tussle as if they were. Chris aimed to take full advantage of the studio and create something that, in his words, “had value in a living room and in a car.” Marc, chief guitarist on a guitar-heavy record, didn’t necessarily want to end up with something that couldn’t be duplicated live. “I think we ended up splitting the difference in a really positive way,” concludes Chris. Both Smiths credit the sage work and enthusiasm of co-producer/engineer Byron McCay.
The resulting Beestinger Lullabies serves up hard-hitting, textured anthems with plenty of space between notes for the vivid scenes set by Chris Smith to sink in: “Yeah, Mama says you’re welcome/And you can smoke out on the porch.” True to the album title, the band can bite hard or burn slowly, bringing to mind big-beat outfits like the True Believers and late local heroes the Backsliders in full guitar-rock mode.
Indeed, Backsliders co-founder Chip Robinson is a guest contributor to Beestinger Lullabies, along with members of groups both defunct (6 String Drag, Whiskeytown) and functioning (the Carbines, Tres Chicas). But the brightest spotlight shines on theater actress/torch singer Rosa Martin, who duels brassily with Chris Smith on “Say It Like You Mean It”. According to the band’s new drummer, ex-Whiskeytowner Skillet Gilmore, “If this record doesn’t do anything else, it will launch Rosa’s career.”