In the dead of winter, on a cold January night with 40mph winds, it’s hard to motivate yourself to go out and listen to music. Luckily for those in Tulsa, there was some music worth leaving the house for. It just so happens that Sarah Shook and the Disarmers put the Mercury Lounge and Tulsa on their winter tour schedule. Having never played Tulsa before, one might think it would be hard to draw a crowd out on a Monday night, but Sarah Shook and the Disarmers defied all odds and packed out the Mercury Lounge. If it wasn’t a sold- out crowd, then it was definitely close to being so. Perched near the sound booth, I was able to observe the crowd that was attending the show and I have to say I’ve never seen a more diverse group of people at any show I’ve been to at the Mercury Lounge. Old punks, men in motorcycle vests, barflys, millennials and a large group of middle-aged men. As the night progressed they would all end up singing along to the punk/outlaw country sound that Sarah Shook and the Disarmers are known for.
Dressed in varying shades of black, blue bandanna in her right back pocket and Carhartt beanie covering her head, Sarah snagged a drink from the bar and strode up on the small stage, before grabbing her guitar, signaling to the band and starting her set with the song, “Good as Gold.” If you’ve never heard Sarah before you may be unprepared for such a distinctive voice and commanding presence to come from such a small person, but as the saying goes, “Good things come in small packages” and Sarah is the epitome of that.
Playing a 21- song set that included a two- song encore, Sarah and the Disarmers played an equal number of songs off of their first two albums, Sidelong and Years. Two songs from Sarah’s album 7, also made the set. “Fuck Up,” “Nothin’ Feels Right But Doin’ Wrong,” “The Way She Looked at You,” “Sidelong,” “Damned If I do, Damned If I Don’t” and “New Ways to Fail” are just a small sampling of the jam packed set. The only intermission during the set was an instrumental played by the Disarmers to accompany Sarah changing out a guitar string. Upon returning to the mic, Sarah quipped “that was dreamy as fuck, boys” and jumped right back into the next song.
Listening to the songs, I’m left wondering how much of the songs are taken straight from the life of Sarah and her bandmates and how many are collected stories from a life on the road, talking to people and living the wandering life of a musician. They’re songs of love lost, drowning sorrows in a bottle, leaving lovers, addiction and a devil may care attitude. All songs are brought to life with the honesty and intensity that Sarah brings to the stage. I’d like to point out that what also makes the songs what they are is the not only the superb songwriting and Sarah’s unmistakable voice, but also the fact there’s a great band involved. The Disarmers are made up of Eric Peterson on electric guitar, Phil Sullivan on pedal steel, Aaron Oliva on upright bass and Kevin McClain on drums. At one point Sarah confessed she started playing the wrong song and the band followed along, but who could even tell? It’s a testament to a band that can take a situation like that and nobody in the crowd is the wiser until they’re told that took place.
If you’ve never heard Sarah Shook and the Disarmers, check out their upcoming tour schedule and find their nearest stop to your neck of the woods. If you’re into real, honest music that has distinctive notes of outlaw country, rockabilly and punk influences mixed in, then this is the band for you. Read our earlier interview with her, here: Interview: Sarah Shook on Playfulness, Her Favorite Good Cause, and a Touring Tip and read about the documentary, here: Sarah Shook Writes Some Songs In “What It Takes: Film en Douze Tableaux” (DVD Review)
You can find their upcoming tour schedule here: https://www.disarmers.com/dates and grab their album here: