Local music: Fort Shame

  • Photo by Meghan Ralston
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From the January 31, 2013 edition

Rock ’n’ roll may be a young man’s game, but there are certainly advantages to a quarter century on the job. When you get a bunch of “old pros” like the members of Fort Shame together, you can dispense with the baby steps and get down to the good stuff.

“There’s this process that we all have honed for the past 25 years, and miraculously it all kind of gels. And it makes it pretty smooth,” singer/keyboardist Sue Harshe said. “So that’s what I mean by ‘pros’ is just kind of having figured out stuff. When you’re 21 and in a band, that takes up a lot of time… trying to learn how to write songs, how to play out, who to play with — you know, everything.”

Fort Shame brings together Harshe, a member of pioneering indie rock trio Scrawl, with Todd May, formerly of alt-country greats The Lilybandits and current frontman for The Mooncussers, not to mention guitarist for Lydia Loveless. May’s Mooncussers bandmate Jamey Ball plays bass, while former Evil Queens drummer George Hondroulis rounds out the highly accomplished lineup.

As such, there’s no mistaking Double Wide, Fort Shame’s first album, for anything but the work of seasoned veterans. Aesthetically, the record’s stories-as-songs hearken to the days of “college rock,” boasting a blend of post-R.E.M. jangle and earnest Americana that puts it in league with Camper Van Beethoven. It’s an old-school style executed with clear heads and steady hands.

“No one part is bigger than the song,” Ball said. “So it’s not like we’re going to sacrifice the song so that I can get a bass solo.”

They’ll play a happy hour gig Friday at Rumba Cafe, and Harshe is organizing a series of shows across Ohio for the coming months. Don’t expect them to be hopping in the van for months at a time, though.

“If Dolly Parton’s tour bus pulled up in front of my house and said ‘You can tour in this for two weeks,’ I would say yes,” Harshe said. “As I get older, my life gets much more interesting, so I don’t want to be away for six weeks.”