Stack 'em up! - Hippo Press Article - 6-2-2011

Stack ’em up
Shana Stack Band making all the pieces fit

By Michael Witthaus

Unlike many musical genres, a good country song leads with melody and lets the beat follow. With the Shana Stack Band, it begins with a crisp lead guitar, the kind perfected by Vince Gill and Brad Paisley, coupled with the sultry sway of pedal steel. Then the rhythm kicks in, guided by gentle acoustic strumming.

That’s Shana Stack’s moment, as she steps up to the microphone and begins to sing.

Ultimately, though, a memorable tune is all about emotion, as any crooner from Patsy to Reba will attest, and it’s Ed Leavitt who provides the band’s songwriting power. A Nashville veteran who grew up on George Jones and Merle Haggard, Leavitt knows his subjects. A ballad, “Pleasure and Pain,” explores the forbidden affair of a “soccer mom” and her former college flame, while the upbeat “Perfect Pair” (a co-write with frequent collaborator Pat Kelley) celebrates a quirky love that’s likened to “Bonnie and Clyde, Sonny and Cher.”

The songs are part of a CD the band hopes to release by July or August in support of a busy summer schedule filled with several outdoor shows in places like Sunapee, Antrim and Hanover. The season ends with the band on the bill for Reba McEntire’s Meadowbrook U.S. Cellular Pavilion show on Sept. 24.

“Reba’s not bringing an opening act; she has such a huge stage that it literally takes an entire day to set up,” said Leavitt recently during a break from rehearsals in their drummer’s Newport garage. “So we’re playing on the side stage, but we’re technically the opener.”

The group includes Stack and Leavitt (who also plays rhythm guitar) sharing lead vocals. Drummer Rick Leavitt (Ed’s brother) and veteran bass player Kevin Miller form the rhythm section, with John Sanchez on lead guitar and backing vocals. The many varying influences make the group greater than the sum of its parts. Miller comes from a rock and rollbackground, having opened for the Who and Steppenwolf.

Sanchez studied classical guitar in college, but he’s a full covert now: “It’s all about the Telecaster,” he says with a laugh.

Eibner, on the other hand, claims to have hated country music until he heard nascent Americana bands like New Riders of the Purple Sage, Poco and Gram Parsons in the early 1970s.

The Leavitt brothers represent the oldschool contingent, having formed their first country band as teenagers.

From her vantage point as afternoon DJ on country station WINK-FM in Keene, Stack keeps an eye on emerging hits for the band to cover. The latest addition to the set list is Jason Aldean’s “My Kinda Party.” Playing out, they’re able to mix a larger number of originals than a lot of other bands. McCue’s Billiards in Keene is a regular stop, but their first time through they were warned to stick to covers — which they did for the most part. “But our stuff got people on thedance floor and kept everyone drinking,” Stack recalls. “At the end of the night, we were booked for four more gigs — and we got extra money, which never ever happens.”

The band earned the Meadowbrook gig through tenacity and hard work, sending videos and song samples to venue management and engaging in a lengthy negotiation. Fans wishing to get up close and personal with the headliner, whether to gush about a favorite song or ask to have a cherished piece of memorabilia signed, are advised to buy tickets using the special promotional code SSTSSB, which will automatically enter them for a chance to win a meet and greet with McIntire at the show.

The band members themselves are fans and are eagerly anticipating the early fall show. Stack’s husband celebrated by picking up a Reba Signature Barbie doll at Wal-Mart, hoping the star will autograph it. “He loves Reba,” says Stack.

Shana Stack Band Friday, June 3, at 9 p.m. at the Chop Shop Pub and Grub, 920 Lafayette Road in Seabrook (760-7706)

Saturday, June 4, at 11 a.m. at the 27th Annual WOKQ Chowder Festival in Prescott Park, Portsmouth (rain date Sunday, June 5)

Saturday, June 11, at 9 p.m. at Midnight Rodeo Bar (Yard Restaurant), 1211 South Mammoth Road in Manchester (703-8444)

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