This son of rural West Virginia sings for hardworking people and gets everybody on the dance floor of the soul with this rocking reminder of green grass and blue sky.
I turned up George Shingleton’s rocking new song to just shy of distortion as soon as I got the vibe of the opening rhythm guitar and tinkling piano. And then I turned it louder and started singing right along before I even knew the words. And then I rejoiced over the lead guitar.
Then I hit replay. And I’ve been doing that for about 15 minutes straight and probably won’t stop till I’m done writing this. And that’s only because I’ve got other stuff to do today. In truth, all I want to do right now is throw my furniture out the window to make space to dance to “Have a Good Time” till I feel better about the world.
George Shingleton cut his teeth and spirit on traditional gospel music in small country churches in rural West Virginia. Thank goodness choir directors encouraged him to find his voice and take it from church out into the world. When he did, Shingleton came out of the mic and amps with a rootsy mix of gospel, country, and Southern rock.
Shingleton’s more contemplative single “Handful of Hell” came out back in May. (“How’d I ever get this lucky to live under the arm of an angel when all I’ve ever been is a …”). It’s also great in a sure-do-love-that-good-woman-of-mine way.
But “Have a Good Time” is the kind of great I need right now. Keeping this song pounding out of my little Pebble speakers (which are pretty darn good considering how cheap they are) is probably the best I’ll feel all day. This might be the medicine you need right about now, too.
The song features Shingleton on killer vocals, Shane Sanders on lead guitar (OMG, thank you, thank you!), Tom Bukovac on guitar (Hank Williams Jr., Willie Nelson, Keith Urban), Steve Mackey on bass (Garth Brooks, Dolly Parton, Peter Frampton), Jefferson Crow on keyboards (Gary Allan, Sturgill Simpson, Jamey Johnson), and Bradford Dobbs on drums.
We talked to Shingleton about his new music and got his recommendations for a Feel Good playlist.
(BTW: I’m at a full hour and still hitting replay and having a good time.)
Cowboys & Indians: For people who are not familiar with you, tell us a little bit about yourself and your music.
George Shingleton: I grew up in north-central West Virginia in a somewhat typical Appalachian railroad and coal mining town. All of the clichéd scenarios for a small-town country upbringing fits that description perfectly. I grew up in a church, where music played a big part of the services. I think that’s the place I made my connection with music for the first time. It hasn’t really been disconnected since. My hometown was a lot like most in Appalachia. Very close-knit, and everyone doing anything to help each other. Everybody knows everybody, pretty much. I don’t think it’s changed much in that aspect at all. That’s why I always like to go back any chance I get. I live in Nashville now.
C&I: Your music really inhabits a fairly “classic country” and Southern-rock sort of space. Your music sounds like it could have come out decades ago, but it also sounds really fresh. How did you land on your sound and do feel like you’re carrying the country torch now?
Shingleton: I think my sound comes from all of the music that I was around growing up — starting with the gospel music at church and then hearing a lot of the classic stuff from Merle Haggard, George Jones, etc., to the Allman Brothers Band and Lynyrd Skynyrd stuff. Mix all of that up with demographics, accents, and life lessons or stories, and there you have it. I’ve always been attracted to the story type songs, and stuff that made you feel exactly what the melody and lyrics were trying to make you feel. As for carrying the country torch, I don’t know if that can be placed on any one person’s shoulders. I wouldn’t mind helping though.
C&I: Who are your biggest musical influences?
Shingleton: I would say the biggest influences, musically, range from Ronnie Van Zant and Hank Williams Jr. to Merle Haggard and Waylon Jennings, all the way back to my gospel upbringing. I like the authenticity that each of these have. That’s why it’s probably hard to pinpoint just a few.
C&I: Tell us about your latest single, “Have a Good Time.” How did it come together? How did you choose to record this song?
Shingleton: “Have a Good Time” came from my producer, Dave Pahanish, actually. I had just moved to town, and he played it one night at a place in downtown Nashville. I instantly connected to it, I think. I’ve been wanting to record it since. I was really happy when Dave brought it up before we started recording this album. What I hope people get from it? Sometimes, you have to tuck the negative things away, and cut loose. We all have to try and keep a side to us that can make us forget about the stresses of life, even for a moment. I hope that’s what folks get from it.
C&I: Do you have a favorite part?
Shingleton: My favorite part is how the song has that old-school anthem, rock ’n’ roll, country sound to it. It just makes ya feel like shufflin’ your feet. You can’t be in a bad mood at the end of it.
C&I: Tell us about your new album, Out All Nighter, which comes out December 4th. What’s the common thread that holds all of the songs together?
Shingleton: I think the most common thing about this next album, Out All Nighter, is the honesty of the songs. A lot of it is things I’ve seen, lived, or felt, so it definitely has that to make it all come together.
C&I: High points on the album?
Shingleton: The highest point on the whole thing comes from the song “Handful of Hell.” That song is special to me because it was written for my wife. Everything in it is as true as it gets for me. It digs in on the last chorus too. It kinda cranks it out. I like it when songs build up to that.
C&I: Tell us about the recording process. How did the album come together in the studio?
Shingleton: Recording this album was an awesome experience. I got to record some of it at Black River Studios in town here in Nashville, and that studio has a lot of cool history with all the greats making music there. The rest of it was done at Panfish Studio (Dave Pahanish’s home studio). There’s not too many more places that have the vibe that you’ll get there. We had an array of musicians on this project also, so it’s really cool to gather everybody’s musical takes and watch it all fit together like a puzzle.
C&I: What have you been doing during lockdown?
Shingleton: I’ve been doing some creating as far as solo writing, but mostly reorganizing and rearranging our house around. I’ve played a lot of guitar also. I imagine my wife will be happy when things pick back up, and we’re playing and on the road again. The streaming world has been a great way for me to stay connected to all the folks. Luckily, before the lockdown, I had been doing a livestream every Tuesday night from my Facebook page called Tuesday Night Tunes. That’s kept me sane for the most part. Being able to still play music for people has been a huge factor in keeping me from going crazy, I think.
C&I: Generally speaking, what inspires you? How do you “refill the well” of creativity?
Shingleton: Reading is very inspiring sometimes to spark creativity for me. I definitely don’t do that enough for sure. The biggest thing that inspires or refills the well, though, is getting out in nature and being surrounded by quiet. Natural sounds seem the most influential in that process.
C&I: What is something that people might be surprised to learn about you?
Shingleton: I really don’t know what the most surprising thing about me would be. I was a correctional officer for the state of West Virginia when I was a lot younger. That usually throws people off when they find that out. I don’t think anyone expects a long-haired fella that needs to shave to have ever been straightlaced enough hold a job like that.
C&I: What’s next for you?
Shingleton: I hope what’s next is more music and touring. I’m absolutely content when I’m able to do that. I can’t wait for everyone to hear this new album, and I’m looking forward to getting out to see folks and play for them. Yeah, man!
George Shingleton’s Feel Good Playlist
“Handful of Hell” — George Shingleton
“That’s the Way Love Goes” — Merle Haggard
“Church on Cumberland Road” — Shenandoah
“Grandpa (Tell Me ’Bout the Good Old Days)” — The Judds
“You Look So Good in Love” — George Strait
“Good Hearted Woman” — Willie Nelson
“Cast No Stones” — Cody Jinks
“Guitars, Cadillacs” — Dwight Yoakam
“Fire or Flame” — George Shingleton
“Long Haired Country Boy” — The Charlie Daniels Band
“Good Ole Boys Like Me” — Don Williams
“Yesterday’s Wine” — Blackberry Smoke (feat. George Jones & Jamey Johnson)
Photography: Images courtesy Erika Rock