CEDAR SHAKES are a local country band based in Nehalem, Oregon. They released a beauty of a 4-song 10 in. vinyl record, RED RIVER this past spring, recorded in Austin,Texas. Cedar Shakes is fronted by singer/songwriter Travis Champ, a local poet who came into some coastal notoriety a few years ago with his poetry collection, Old Nehalem Road.
Nestucca Spit Press publisher and noted Oregon literary aficionado Matt Love published Champs work, but Champ himself set all the type for the book, on a hundred-year-old press, and bound all three hundred copies of the first edition print run. Upon hearing Champ at an Open Mic in Lincoln City, Love says, “It voiced the raw wet alienated stuff of what living at the Oregon Coast can do.” He immediately hooked up with Champ.
When or if the then 25 year-old Champ was writing songs at that time, not known – but similar to his well-tempered tales of a poetic Oregon coast, Champ’s sensibilities in songwriting are of equal rustic charm and country beats.
Cedar Shakes is Champ, joined by James Owen Greenan on drums and Jon Feeder on bass, (Rich Russell on the recording) – in addition to a lap steel/dobro player Landry McMeans to the recording.
Mostly medium paced tunes are Champs lovely country-style reveries, poems (not your standard country lyrics), sketches, vignettes — he does sing some about rodeos and Nashville, and in the tune Sandy Koufax sings:
The Air Force taught us all Vietnamese
So we could know our enemy
I found myself in 1970
A conscientious objector in Montgomery
A theme of boyhood memory, baseball and the fate of boys to war. Champs poems set to song, inhabit a masculine world, one that is shared artfully through old school country style.
The band Cedar Shakes is a good sound. Never overplayed in countrified zeal, but sophisticated in the simplicity of shaping the components of a song. Tasty melodic bass interludes, hooks and emotive guitar chords are set against Champs semi-monotone, yet smooth and resonant vocals. Crisp rhythms trot along even in the slower paced tracks. The four songs on RED RIVER each stand apart and engage. The term catchy is not exactly what I’m looking for here– but that’s what they do, they catch you.
Catch the Cedar Shakes, Monday, August 22, 8pm at the Hoffman Center Annex in Manzanita. Joined by The Black from Austin TX, and Josh Uithof. $5, 594 Laneda Ave. (sorry folks, no photo, Shakes don’t do photos).