Country Artist Shawn Bell and Blowin’ the Damn Fuses Keep It Real on ‘Red, White and Honky Tonk Blues’

The Southwestern Ohio band celebrates its new album release this Saturday at Bobby Mackey’s in Wilder

click to enlarge Shawn Bell - Michael Gabbard Photography
Michael Gabbard Photography
Shawn Bell
Earlier this year, Billboard famously decided to make Lil Nas X’s ubiquitous hit “Old Town Road” ineligible for the Country music charts, saying it didn’t qualify because it didn’t contain enough elements of the genre.

It could be argued that most hit Country today doesn’t contain enough of those vaguely defined elements, especially if measured against the traditional sound forged by the music’s architects. One person who’d never be denied a Billboard chart entry for those foundational reasons is Wilmington, Ohio native Shawn Bell, whose new album with his group Blowin’ the Damn Fuses is defiantly Country, steeped in the grounded, no-bullshit fundamentals of the genre’s pioneers, from early Honky Tonk trailblazers like Hank Williams to Outlaw renegades like Merle Haggard.

Both of those legends get a shout-out on Red, White and Honky Tonk Blues, a collection of nine songs about heartbreak, hard working and hard living. Bell — who fronts the group on vocals and also plays harmonica — lays out his musical philosophy immediately on album opener “A Real Country Song,” on which he sings about sitting down to write a hit but soon realizing he can’t because he’s got “nothing in common with the shit they playin’ today.”

“Think it’s safe to say, you’ll never hear me played on the radio,” Bell sings.

The Blowin’ the Damn Fuses band helps drive the dedication to tradition home with a sturdy base of simple swaying rhythms (anchored by bassist D.T. Short and drummer Scott Smith), strong guitar work from Larry Mink and Nick Giese (who currently tours with David Allan Coe) and Bell’s scorching harmonica playing and rumbling, low-register vocals. (Guitarist Kevin Ashcraft is currently in the live band.) If you like your Country to be no-frills and sound best played at 2 a.m. in a dark honky tonk club, Bell and Co. are right up your proverbial alley.

Bell and Blowin’ the Damn Fuses will host an album release show for Red, White and Honky Tonk Blues this Saturday, Sept. 14 at Bobby Mackey’s Music World (44 Licking Pike, Wilder, The Fuses will play at 8 p.m., followed by Mackey and his Best Damn Band.

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