For three years running, Columbus country band extraordinaire Slim White and the Averys has been hosting a monthly celebration of all things twangy at The Shrunken Head. At the Ranch Party Round Up, tossing your peanut shells on the floor is encouraged. Bands get paid in the form of tips stuffed into a giant boot at the side of the stage; apparently they do it that way in Nashville.
Last Saturday’s third anniversary edition offered extra incentive to show up: Columbus country veteran Ricky Barnes was in the house. In the late ’80s and early ’90s, Barnes released four albums with his band Ricky Barnes and the Hoot Owls on locally based Okra Records. He recently resurrected his traditionalist sound in a new band called The Savory Chickens featuring his son Henry on fiddle and background vocals.
An emcee interviewed and introduced the band before its set as if we were watching “Hee Haw.” After some small talk about what Barnes has been up to, the emcee declared, "These bands are playing for free. See that boot over there? Dump it in!”
They began with a pair of instrumentals, first an instantly pleasant little strum, pluck and fiddle number, then a similar jaunt in a minor key. Barnes made some remarks about how he just got in from Lucasville, which I thought was some kind of fictionalized outlaw country prison trope until he later mentioned how he bought two donkeys down there.
Eventually Barnes and son let loose with their vocals, harmonizing in high, twanging drawl over a rambling tempo. A saloon ballad followed, then more instrumental barnburners that ought to have had the politely seated crowd up and square dancing. Some delays between songs slowed the momentum, but the addition of a second fiddler/vocalist named Ellen jolted the performance back to life.
Frankly, folksy music like this tends to blend together for me. I couldn’t tell you the difference between most of the songs The Savory Chickens rolled out, but I know they’d serve you well if you were looking to party barnyard style, and I know it rang true when Barnes belted out, “I've been a long lost soul for a long, long time.”