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Shootouts target traditional country sounds

YOUNGSTOWN — If there’s an act on this year’s Federal Frenzy lineup that falls into the category of “One of these things is not like the others,” The Shootouts is the band that hits that target.

It’s fitting since the band’s retro country vibe also is out of step with what gets called country today.

“What we’re doing is real country,” said frontman Ryan Humbert. “Today’s country music is pop or hip hop with a fiddle mixed in pretty low in the background.”

The Shootouts will play on The Summit’s 330 Stage on Saturday. Humbert handles marketing and events for the public radio station (90.7/91.3 FM) and hosts “Shooter Sharp’s Americana Roundup” on Sunday mornings. The band will release its debut album, “Quick Draw,” next month.

Humbert has been a fixture in the Akron music scene for more than a decade. The albums he’s released under his own name have more of a rock/pop/singer-songwriter vibe, but some country influences have creeped in over the years.

“I’ve always loved traditional, real country,” he said. “I grew up on it between my mom and my grandpa, but I kept it at arm’s length.”

When Brian Poston joined his band on electric and acoustic guitar, he shared Humbert’s affection for that music, and they started a side project (originally called Shooter Sharp & the Shootouts) to scratch that musical itch.

“We started out covering old classic stuff, and we loved it,” Humbert said. “After a couple shows, we realized we were onto something. I’m having more fun on stage with this band than I’ve had in years.”

The rest of the band features Humbert’s longtime collaborator Emily Bates on backing vocals, Dylan Gomez on Drums and Ryan McDermott on bass. Humbert started writing songs with The Shootouts in mind and revisiting some older songs that never found a place on one of his solo albums, like “Lonesome Never Lets Me Down.”

“That’s a song I’d written years ago, and all of the sudden it struck me, ‘This is meant to be a country song.” he said. “With those old-fashioned country songs, the things you write about don’t fit modern pop or even the modern country world. It’s tears in my beer, love gone wrong, somebody killed somebody.”

The Shootouts recorded “Quick Draw” with producers Luca Benedetti and Jim Campilongo at their studio in Brooklyn, N.Y. Campilongo is a member of The Little Willies with Norah Jones and has played with Cake, Bright Eyes, JJ Cale and Gillian Welch and David Rawlings. The duo’s work producing Zephaniah Ohora’s debut “This Highway” is what attracted Humbert.

“That was one of the best sounding records I’ve heard in years,” he said. “It sounded like a classic, 1970s Bakersfield album.”

The band recorded demos at home, sending the recordings to Benedetti and Campilongo for feedback. Humbert said about 90 percent of the pre-production was handled that way and the record itself was recorded in six days.

“I like to get in the mindset. I enjoy going to a destination to make a record instead of making it at home. It lets you get out of the day to day we all deal with … It’s a great way to make a record.”

MRI Entertainment/MegaForce Records will release “Quick Draw” on May 10, and a video for “Clean House,” the first single, was released this week.

The Shootouts are used to playing rock/punk clubs and festivals where guys in snap button shirts with embroidered yokes look out of place, so Humbert isn’t worried about being surrounded by indie rock and electronic acts at Federal Frenzy.

“It’s a challenge. We look at it as a positive for us. There’s not a lot of people doing what we’re doing, and there’s definitely a need and want and love for this music. Because we’re a little left of center, we can fit in other places. I’ve had a lot of people come up and tell me, ‘I don’t like country music, but I like what you do’ … We want people to realize where the genre came from and are hoping we can spread the word about real country music.”

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