Dusty Miles and the Cryin' Shame
Every band hates describing its own genre. Musicians perceive the nuance in their own work to a degree that, for them, ruins broad-stroke genre descriptors, which inevitably leads to five-genre-plus-mood declaration, e.g. indie pop-industrial crust folk.
No matter how ridiculous that sounds to everybody else, most musicians are guilty of insisting that music transcends lowly, limiting genre titles. And when you look at bands individually, it does become hard to force them into a one-size-fits-all explanation.
Sitting at the Great Basin Brewery in Sparks after a recent show was rained out, the members of Dusty Miles and the Cryin’ Shame said they’re not strangers to this situation.
Some might cast them under the broad “traditional Americana” umbrella, but there are dozens of corners under that umbrella that they constantly bounce among. And hell, the answer even depends on which band member you ask.
“Strict rockabilly people get mad we aren’t playing traditional covers,” said Dusty Miles, the band’s frontman and songwriter. “But punks are bored when we play the slower ones.”
He listed a few names but ultimately lands in the alt-country neighborhood. Upright bassist Chris Rodgers soon showed up covered in Vaseline after crashing his motorcycle and said the band leans more toward rockabilly. Drummer Danny Horton arrived to comments about his newly shaved head, which he attributed to a gas stove accident, and said without hesitation, “I think we’re kind of cow punk.”
Guitarist Eric Peterson and fiddle player Katie Schadegg seem to agree with all three answers.
“It’s definitely different than traditional country,” said Schadegg as the server brought out some deep-fried pickles. Schadegg started playing violin classically, then joined a country band in Chicago. Though a difficult transition at first, she said it was basically just figuring out the formula.
“This band doesn’t have that,” she laughs.
At first listen, the Cryin’ Shame seems lucky enough to fall within a well-defined group of genres. However, the band members say that actually leads to more stress. Traditionalists are upset that what they’re doing is desecrating the pre-defined genres, and the maverick types are upset that they aren’t desecrating it loudly enough.
The conversation eventually leads to an agreed-upon conclusion among the band members—genre should not dictate what you play. Play what’s fun and what’s comfortable and the descriptor follows as a way to broadly classify the band members’ tastes.
“Sure, it’s important in a way, because it helps for marketing a band,” Miles said. “But it’s more important to just play what comes natural and let other people decide if they like it or not.”
The band recently played a Hot August Nights event at the Peppermill which they say was a decent allegory for these points. They were asked more than once to play standard covers—one man yelled “Walk the Line” over and over between songs. Occasionally they oblige, but, for the most part, they continued playing originals or would jump into an obscure cover by a similar artist.
Aside from the periodical episode of a rowdy audience member’s drunken insistence, playing the gambit of traditional Americana can be a huge perk. It broadens the band’s appeal to a multi-generational crowd that a by-the-books group might not reach.
“I mean, we play traditional-style music because it’s relatable,” Miles said. "It’s not a cryptic puzzle. It’s a straightforward representation of the human experience. … Oh, and I love playing ballads. And punk … I mean, why would anyone want to play just one kind of music?”