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Wednesday, May 27, 2009 08:44 am

Take a gamble on Hillbilly Casino


Hey there you cool cats, when was the last time an honest-to-goodness, classic looking, real sounding, nationally touring, rockabilly band rocked your world? Back in the heyday of local music organization Sangamon Valley Roots Revival, every time you turned around another band attired in the official costume of cuffed jeans, boots and a white T-shirt or outlandish cowboy snap-shirt complete with slicked back hair and colorful tattoos, swaggered into town rattling the rafters of a local juke joint with the salutary sounds of American roots music.

Hillbilly Casino, a Nashville-based quartet, revives those days of yore dressed in full rockabilly regalia, celebrating the brash sounds of an exciting and provocative time in popular music with classic songs and original tunes. Don’t let the Nashville address fool you into thinking they promote slick production and packaged goods, these guys are way outside the confining grip of the Music City USA establishment. In fact they eschew the major label corporate functions to act as punk-influenced do-it-yourselfers, keeping the booking, recording, merchandising, as well as the playing, all within the band.

Nic Roulette, former lead singer and driving force of the nationally renowned, rockabilly sensation, the Blue Moon Boys, moved from the BMBs stomping grounds of northern Indiana to Nashville in 2004. After hooking up with some dedicated and intense musicians, namely bassist Geoff Firebaugh (BR5-49), guitarist Ronnie Crutcher (Tabasko Kat, Brian Setzer’s Nashvillians) and drummer Andrew Dickson, Roulette went to work establishing Hillbilly Casino as a devoted purveyor of scorching classic rockabilly.

The band got its start in the fine tradition of playing for tips, lining up a steady show at Layla’s Bluegrass Inn on Lower Broadway in the old underbelly of Nashville’s downtown. Soon the band began a steady rise in performances culminating in the present number of around 200 shows a year. Recent festival excursions include the Kilkenny Rhythm and Roots Festival in Ireland, Bergenfest in Norway, Rockin’ 50s Fest in Green Bay, Wis., and the Texas Rockabilly Revival in Austin, Texas. In between and around those shows, the Casino (as they are familiarly known) swung through Houston, Memphis, Chicago and other major U.S. cities, burning up the stage at each stop with the extreme fervor that rockabilly done right requires.

How do I know this? Well I didn’t get to each show personally, but I watched a few You Tube recordings, read reviews and sometimes, you know, you just get a feeling about a group, and my gut reaction says, they rock hard with a no-holds-barred approach to performance. Emotional ballads, nope; cutesy stage banter, probably not; hard-rocking, sweat-slinging, high-energy music — that would be a yes. Discover for yourself on Saturday, May 30, at Bar None on the corner of Fifth and Monroe in lovely downtown Springfield when Hillbilly Casino takes the stage around 10 p.m.

A now for something completely different: The Gaddis Girls, a Springfield-based singing duo of teenaged sisters Cassy and Alyssa Gaddis, wrote and then recorded a song called The Price of Peace at a Nashville studio. Through a sponsorship with the National Guard, they filmed a video representing the sentiment of the song, showing how a family deals with a parent heading off to war as a member of the U.S. military. The girls are very talented singers and charming young people with a great future ahead in the music industry. The video, distributed to movie theaters in six states on May 22, is a tour de force of emotional patriotism and a tremendous statement of the star potential of the Gaddis Girls. To see the video, go to www.GaddisGirls.com or a theater near you.

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