Episode 076–Ruby Dee and the Snakehandlers with Bruce Hilliard
Who are Ruby Dee and The Snakehandlers? Music lovers the world over continue to learn about this band that’s earned a nationwide following and international fans with its honest, original music fused with synergy, sugar, sweat and soul.
The 14-year-old four-piece combo plays an Americana that encompasses Texas honky-tonk, Bakersfield twang, Memphis rockabilly, Western swing and good old-fashioned rock ’n’ roll.
Ruby Dee’s is a tale of unbelievable resilience and drive in the face of struggles that would foil someone with less determination. Her latest album Little Black Heart is a tour de force of exemplary musicianship. Ruby wrote every song on it, with the exception of a Jack Scott chestnut that was a favorite of the band. This is amazing in itself, considering the aftermath of a terrible accident that left her with significant brain damage. Eight years ago, she was involved in a scooter accident that left her with a traumatic brain injury and other trauma: vertigo, memory loss, nausea, mental confusion and language challenges. “I could picture an image in my mind, but couldn’t think of the word. I couldn’t finish thoughts or sentences or conversations, let alone write songs.”
Providing the rock-solid honky-tonk groove backing Ruby and Jorge are Rick Watson on doghouse bass and Michael Bahan on cathouse drums. Together, they have played fourteen successful European tours and a few rockin’ Australian tours, as well as a variety of dates across the United States.
The band’s release Live From Austin Texas came out mid May 2011 on both CD and vinyl, showcasing a few new songs and fans old favorites cranked up with that live jumpin’ sound for which the Snakehandlers are so well known. Songs from the CD charted for three months on both the AMA and Texas Third Coast Music charts, and the CD earned the band a 54th Grammy consideration for Best Americana Album.
Their release Rockabilly Playground came out May 2013 on both CD and vinyl, and is a roots and rockabilly album for the whole family. With all mature instrumentation (no kazoos or funny voices) and lyrics for the kids: songs about homework, naptime, why we have to follow all the rules, super best friends, and more. Ruby wrote the record when she saw how many of their fans have children and when they can bring them to shows, how many of those kids LOVE this style of music! So rather than sing achy breaky ‘he’s gonna get it’ type songs to them, she wrote new ones with the kiddos in mind. Songs from the album charted on both AMA and FAR charts, and earned the band a 56th Grammy consideration for Best Children’s Album.
“Risky — and perhaps just a bit risqué — Ruby Dee and The Snakehandlers conjure forth all sorts of visions of another time,” said Metro Santa Cruz after a California show. “Rooted firmly in the classic country and rockabilly tradition, the band is an authentic backdrop for lead singer Ruby Dee’s blend of Wanda Jackson sass and Patsy Cline pathos. The band holds it down with the insistence of a chugging train while Dee, a pinup heartbreaker of yesteryear with thoroughly modern attitude, commands the stage.”
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RUBY DEE AND THE SNAKEHANDLERS