It's kind of a drag paying your dues when you're starting up a band, looking for gigs, and your sound is hard to categorize. We sat with Shinbone Alley vocalist/percussionist Jill Lurie and guitarist Robert Goldman as they tried to explain their particular kind of noise in words. Jill spouted out, "jazzy swingabilly," and Robert's face lit up in agreement. Maybe that will grab the ear of local club owners.
And well it should. The band's unique musical chemistry -- a mix of Western swing, rockabilly, and jazz and pop standards from the '20s through the '50s -- connects with a range of listeners at any age, from hipsters steeped in Americana to grandfolks recalling the gems of their youth.
Lurie and Goldman are the heart of the group, though live gigs typically include either Phil MacArthur or Perry Orfanella on bass, Bob Sadowsky on harmonica and Rex Blazer ("He's really a stripper," cracks Lurie) on fiddle ("Or you can call it a violin, depending on the number," sez Goldman).
The two hail from Orange, CT, outside New Haven, attending the same elementary school, though over a decade apart (Goldman the elder of them). They came to vintage music and to South Florida by separate paths.
Lurie, a licensed clinical social worker, had music in her family. Her mother was a performer in community musical theater, and her father sang to Lurie when she was a girl, strumming his ukelele. On an impulse, Lurie started singing at open mics in Charlotte, NC, after college, "suddenly found myself in a bluegrass band," she said, and, three years later, a 5-piece all-girl Americana outfit. Goldman started on guitar at age 12, playing rock and roll, and in his twenties, performed regularly with Eight to the Bar, a long-running New England swing band. A working attorney, he took a thirty-year hiatus from music, picking up the ax again three years ago.
The two first met at a Boynton Beach open mic last year; their musical tastes clicked, and they debuted last November. That was as a duo, and while they perform that way as circumstances demand, it's "more interesting, more exciting," Lurie said, "when the full lineup is there."
Breaking through to the South Florida clubs scene has been a struggle though, they say. Club owners want bands with followings; followings only come if you get to play out. Shinbone Alley's gone the extra mile in that regard, playing for free or, for a gig in Delray Beach, for haircuts. They deliver a lot of bang for few bucks, with enough material to do 4-hour shows covering everyone from Hank Williams to Fats Waller, Louis Prima to Les Paul and Mary Ford.
"Discovering this music has been a real joy," Lurie admitted. "And to see a whole room of people respond, that's what makes it all meaningful." "
Shinbone Alley. Saturday, August 10, at South Shores, 502 Lucerne Ave., Lake Worth.
Folk Fest. With Shinbone Alley, Who Left The Heat On, Lucky Star Dust, Rod Dusinberre, and others. 2 to 10 p.m., Saturday, August 17, at the Beat Cup, 660 Linton Blvd., Suite 110, Delray Beach. Free event. Call 561-330-4693, or visit facebook.com/thebeatcupcafe.
To check out Shinbone Alley online, visit ReverbNation.