Rev. Shelby Cobra releases debut CD, Solid Country Gold

FORD TOUGH With a nickname borrowed from Carroll Shelby’s classic car, the Rev. Shelby Cobra hits the stage every Sunday night at Normal St. Bar.

FORD TOUGH With a nickname borrowed from Carroll Shelby’s classic car, the Rev. Shelby Cobra hits the stage every Sunday night at Normal St. Bar.

Photo By Tom Angel

The eldest son of beloved Brenda from Oakley, Calif. (her name is prominently tattooed on his neck), local country singer-guitarist and Sacred Art Tattoo artist Shelby Cobra has been playing his special brand of roughneck alt-country around Chico, Sacramento and the Bay Area for about 10 years now. His debut CD, Solid Country Gold, is full of feisty originals with titles like “Hangover Daze,” “Spiteful Little Heart” and “Unlucky At Best,” and a cover of “Plastic Jesus” ("Well, I don’t care if it rains or freezes/ Long as I have my plastic Jesus…").

Rough-hewn and charming, Cobra (Shelby’s his real first name; “They just started calling me ‘Shelby Cobra’ as a kid” and it stuck) shows up at Has Beans Cafà downtown about 20 minutes late, and apologetic, for our 10 o’clock Monday morning interview. He’s still just waking up after a late night playing his every-other-Sunday-night gig at Normal St. Bar.

Cobra just got back Sept. 5 from a 13-day trip to Nashville, Tenn., and a visit to Country Star University, “where you get schooled on the A-B-C’s of becoming a country star,” as the school’s Web site puts it.

It’s called Country Star University?

It’s a super cheesy name, but the idea of it was cool. … My mom bought [the trip] for me as a birthday present. She likes the fact that I play country music. … I went to two days of classes, eight hours a day. Each class was an hour long and ran the gamut of getting on a record label, publishing, publicity. … It was like a panel. You could ask them questions. They teach you how to market yourself.

Had you ever been to Nashville before?

It was the first time I’d ever been to Nashville. It was awesome. There are bands playing everywhere. It’s like a “music L.A.” Every single person you meet is, like, a songwriter or wants to be a country music star.

Did you get to perform while you were there?

Yes. I was the only person that played an original song, the only person that wrote a song. The guy called me after I came back … to send him CDs because he said, “I think you got something a little cool there. I have friends who’d be interested.” … I know that I’m probably never gonna be played on country music radio. My stuff is too drastic for that. But I don’t care. I just talk about cocaine and whores; stuff that you don’t normally talk about in country music. I’m waiting for a really horrible review, ‘cause I want to use the quotes for my flier! [laughs]

Do you have a bunch of songs written, besides what’s on your CD?

Yeah, I have enough music written now to have, like, two [more] CDs, but I wanted to wait to get this one out. I’m squattin’ on this [other] material.

Who’s going to be playing with you at Duffy’s?

My band from the Bay Area—The Mustangs. Johnny Dilkes on guitar, and sings. Just a good drinkin’ buddy. He likes my stuff. Dave Gleason on guitar and bass, and Leore—don’t know his last name—on drums. And John [LaPado—this writer’s husband] on pedal steel.