By John Ostapowicz
From Akron to Youngstown, The Shootouts have made an impact on traditional country music and musicians in the area. With the help of Grammy-nominated producers, the band has added its own spin on country roots.
The Shootouts combine western, honky-tonk, bakersfield and other various branches of country music, which has created its own original sound. The group has kept old-school country new by blending different styles together.
The Shootouts released “Stampede” on Feb. 24. Since the release of its third album, it has launched to the top ten on the Alt-Country Charts which sparked the Stampede Tour, prompting a visit to Youngstown.
Lead vocalist, guitarist and band leader for The Shootouts, Ryan Humbert, grew up in Akron and his love for music stemmed from his family.
“My musical upbringing came from three places, my dad, my mom and my grandpa,” Humbert said.
Humbert gravitated toward singers such as George Strait and Lucinda Willaims, who used traditional styles of country singing and distinctive performances.
The Shootouts started when Humbert met lead guitarist Brian Poston and found they both shared interest in traditional country music and wanted to recreate the classic sound.
“Just for fun [Poston and I] said ‘let’s start this project’,” Humbert said. “We originally intended this to be a side project doing cover songs, that was it.”
After the first show the pair did together, Humbert instantly knew The Shootouts had created something special.
“It felt like a bolt of lightning,” Humbert said. “It was something where I immediately knew we were on to something.”
From there, Humbert recruited vocalist Emily Bates, whom he had worked with for several years prior to The Shootouts.
The decision to switch from cover songs to original music led to the creation of the band’s debut album, “Quickdraw.” The release of the album in 2019 quickly led to the band’s success, with the help of pedal steel player Al Moss.
“We felt that we wanted to get into original music very quickly,” Humbert said. “[Moss] helped us figure out our voice as songwriters.”
With the help of the band members collectively writing songs together, The Shootouts took their record to Producer Jim Campilongo and Co-Producer Luca Benedetti in Brooklyn, New York.
In 2021, The Shootouts followed up its freshman album with “Bullseye,” the second record in the band’s discography. Grammy-nominated producer and founder of BR5-49, Chuck Mead, helped the band produce the tracks on “Bullseye.”
The partnership started when Humbert handed Mead a copy of the band’s first album. From there, the partnership expanded, leading to songs being recorded in Nashville, Tennessee.
The album was praised by Rolling Stones Country, American Songwriter and The Bluegrass Situation. It also spent over 18 consecutive weeks on the Americana Music Association Top 30 Album chart.
“Bullseye” also found itself at number one on The Alt-Country Speciality Chart, The Roots Music Report Country Albums and The Roots Music Report Americana Albums.
The same year, the songs on the album landed on Sirius XM’s Outlaw Country channel and Spotify’s “Pulse of Americana” playlist.
The Shootouts’ bass guitarist, Kevin McManus, joined the band in preparation for the next album.
McManus knew The Shootouts prior to joining the band and played with The Outside Voices, a rock-based band for seven years. Switching from rock to country prompted McManus to relearn the bass guitar.
“I was at a point where I was looking for a change,” McManus said. “Being in a true retro-country outfit was new to me.”
A year after the release of The Shootouts’ critically acclaimed “Bullseye,” the band released “Stampede.” Frontman and founder of Asleep at the Wheel, Ray Benson, was introduced by a mutual friend to the band to help produce the record.
“We weren’t expecting to make another record so quickly after Bullseyes,” Humbert said. “[Ray] liked the band and agreed to work with us.”
To coincide with the album release, The Shootouts made its Grand Ole Opry debut in Nashville, Tennessee.
“Stampede” features several guest artists, such as Jim Lauderdale, Raul Malo, Ray Benson, Buddy Miller and Marty Straut.
Youngstown-based singer-songwriter JD Eicher has a mutual connection with The Shootouts. He worked on numerous projects and kept in close contact with Humbert.
“Ryan has produced some of my band’s music and I have co-written a song or two with him,” Eicher said. “We are just collaborators and good friends.”
The Shootouts will be near Youngstown in Columbiana, music begins at 2 p.m., April 29 at Birdfish Brewing Co. There will be no cover charge.
To listen to The Shootouts, visit Spotify or Apple Music.