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Nashville twang with a Southern vibe

Touring the West Coast this summer is The Shants, a band with a slow-burning Americana sound out of Oakland, Calif. The group kicked off a string of shows last night at The Naked Lounge in Sacramento and will make stops in Chico, Calif., Portland and Salem before its show set for 7 p.m. Monday, Aug. 23, at Musichead Records, 350 S. Riverside Ave., Medford.

The Shants started last September when guitarist and vocalist Skip Allums called pedal steel player Sam Tokheim to record some demo music. Soon after, drummer Adam Burstein and bassist Carver Cordes joined to add a rhythm section.

The group's EP, "The Russian River Songs," was recorded at a cabin in the Redwoods near the Russian River in Northern California.

"What started as a three-day weekend of hikes and barbecues turned into a live recording session," says Allums. "We took instruments and gear and recorded eight songs in three days."

The EP is like a footprint or document, Allums says. It's a look at where the four musicians are as a new band and where it is headed.

"We felt the music was good enough to share with our friends and give away at our shows," Allums says. "Then songwriter and guitarist Devin Gallagher, from a Portland band called Typhoon, heard us play, and he posted the EP to his High Scores and Records website."

Since then, The Shants has garnered attention with its mix of folk grooves and Nashville twang.

"It was unexpected," Allums says. "We're planning a full-length CD in the fall, so it's good to know that there is an audience."

Allums is the principal songwriter of the group. He and Tokheim grew up in rural areas.

"You can hear a lot of Nashville swing in Sam's playing," Allums says. "He can add a variety of themes to our sound — distant, haunted, romantic. I grew up in Louisiana, so there's a lazy, slow feel to it — the weather's really hot in Louisiana, so you don't really move very fast."

Allums moved to California after he graduated from Louisiana State University with a degree in electronic media. There he met Burstein and Cordes.

"We have a nice balance," Allums says. "Adam and Carver have a sunny, soulful, Southern California background in jazz and R&B. They keep things from getting too sad or dank."

Check out The Shants' music video, "So Strange These Days," at www.theshants.tumblr.com. The song's inspiration took root with an orange tree growing in Allums' backyard.

"I was going through a hard time," Allums says. "Then there was this sweet fruit ready to be picked from that tree. 'So Strange These Days' is about those little things in life that can make you happy."

Local twangers Buzzard Song with Eric Von Radics will open The Shants' show at Musichead. Admission is $5 and tickets are available at the door. Call 541-857-1745.

Left to right: Carver Cordes, Skip Allums, Sam Tokheim and Adam Burstein are The Shants. - Photo by Shannon Claire