April 29, 2013

'Moonshine' rises Friday night in Gadsden


Editor's note: Due to rain in the forecast Friday night, May 3, the "Hello Moonshine" CD premiere party has been rescheduled for Friday, June 7, 2013 in the courtyard beside the Blackstone in Gadsden. For more information visit the Shane Givens Band page on Facebook.

CENTRE — Shane Givens spends the majority of his weekdays in a suit and tie, sitting quietly for hours in a courtroom, talking in low tones with circuit judges and his fellow attorneys.

But on weekends Givens, 39, often finds himself dressed much more casually, strumming on a guitar with laid-back friends who, while perhaps not rowdy anymore, still haven't quite settled down.

He's hoping a majority of them show up Friday night for his new band's CD premiere party in the courtyard beside the Blackstone Bar on Broad Street in Gadsden.

“We're going to have a covered stage, a bunch of musicians, T-shirts, CDs for sale,” Givens says. “And it's First Friday in Gadsden, when they block off the streets, so we're hoping for a really good crowd. It's going to be a family-friendly concert atmosphere.”

The recording sessions that led to the album, titled “Hello Moonshine,” began as sort of a weekend hobby—an opportunity to permanently document music and lyrics that had existed in the band members' heads for years.

“Everyone who has ever written music wants to put it on a CD, for preservation purposes if nothing else,” Givens says. “So we decided it would be fun to do something like that.”

As Givens and the other members of the Shane Givens Band spent more time together recording, they realized they had a product that sounded much more professional than they ever imagined possible.

“So we started putting more time into it,” Givens says. “Initially, it was a project we thought would take a few weeks. It ended up taking four months. It really goes to show how much technology has made professional recording accessible to everybody.”

As a child, Givens started out in music playing the piano at Noah Baptist Church. So when did a change occur, and why?

“I switched to playing guitar in college because it was hard to carry a piano around to parties,” Givens deadpans.

As soon as Givens taught himself to pick and grin, he jumped into the northeast Alabama music scene with both feet around 1992.

“I started playing with Backwater,” Givens says. “I played in that band for years, pretty much full time while I was supposed to be going to school.”

About five years later, Givens started playing regularly with another group of musicians from the Gadsden area.

“That band was called Soul Shine, and I played with them until I got into law school,” he says. “At that point, I stopped playing regularly.”

Givens filled the next few years with occasional acoustic shows at parties, clubs and restaurants, mainly just to scratch his musical itch. Then, about a year ago, he bumped into a musician from Gadsden named Brian Bankston.

“We were originally going to start another cover band called Chub Momma, but after much arm twisting”—and here Givens is deadpanning again—“Brian convinced me we should name the band the Shane Givens Band. I finally said OK.”

Bankston, the band director at Gadsden Middle School and director of Gadsden City High School's jazz band, has also spent time on the weekend cover band circuit. After he and Givens started talking about teaming up, it didn't take long for them to mutually sour on the idea of playing someone else's songs yet again.

“About a year ago he and I got together and decided to try and record a lot of our original music,” Givens says. “All the songs on 'Hello Moonshine' are either his or mine.”

Givens says he and Bankston are proud of the entire ensemble, especially considering how old some of the album's “new” songs actually are.

“There's one song on the CD that Brian wrote in middle school, and he's the same age as me,” Givens says. “There are a lot of songs on there that are 15 to 25 years old, just songs that we have always played on our own.”

Givens says the thrust of the creative energy that the Shane Givens Band applied to its decades-old repertoire consisted of “dusting them off and rewriting the musical arrangements.”

“And Brian is really good at that,” Givens says. “He has a master's degree in jazz performance and composition. He is, literally, a musical genius.”

Centre native and local insurance agent Josh Griffith rounds out the core group of the band.

“Josh and I had been playing together a little bit already, and he can play the guitar really well,” Givens says. “But Josh enjoys playing drums more than anything. So he's our drummer.”

Givens said he and his band mates have talked about what might happen if “Hello Moonshine” really takes off. But they all have fall-back plans, just in case.

“We'll see what happens, we're putting the album on iTunes, Amazon and CDbaby.com,” he says. “The good thing about this is we all have jobs, so it's not something we're relying on to have success with. All I'm really expecting is for people to appreciate how much time went into the CD, and that it is a compilation of mine and Brian's life work. These songs are about our lives.”

The event begins Friday night at 7 p.m. If there is rain it will be rescheduled.