Sarah Shook & the Disarmers
About Sarah Shook & the Disarmers
As the frontwoman for North Carolina's Sarah Shook & the Disarmers, singer/songwriter Sarah Shook offers up a full-bodied combination of the sound of vintage outlaw country -- with lyrics that waver between defiance and honest introspection -- and the fire of punk rock. Having already attached her name to two previous backing bands (the Devil, who broke up in 2013 and the Dirty Hand, who lasted barely a year) and logging hundreds of gigs with only a self-released EP to show for it, Shook earned the admiration of producer Ian Schreier, who helped the Disarmers take shape in 2015. The group's independent debut, Sidelong, soon found a home with Chicago's Bloodshot Records, which re-released it in 2017 to critical acclaim, setting the table for their 2018 follow-up Years.
Shook was born in Rochester, New York in 1985. She was raised in a deeply religious household, home schooled, and only allowed to listen to classical or Christian praise music as she grew up. Despite these restrictions, Shook taught herself to play guitar in high school and began writing songs. She and her family moved frequently during her childhood, and when she was 19, they settled in Garner, North Carolina, a town Shook openly disliked. A brief marriage left her with a son, and she relocated to Pittsboro, North Carolina, a half-hour drive from Chapel Hill, where she felt much more at home. In 2010, she put together her first band, Sarah Shook & the Devil, who issued an EP in 2013, Seven. (The EP was given a belated vinyl-only American release in 2020.) By the end of 2013, that band had split, and Shook & the Devil guitarist Eric Peterson started over with the group Sarah Shook & the Dirty Hand, a stopgap project that played live around the Chapel Hill area. Meanwhile, Shook had found a fan in producer and engineer Ian Schreier, who was eager to make a record with her. In 2015, she and Peterson assembled a new band to record with Schreier, which also included Aaron Olivia on bass, Phil Sullivan on pedal steel, and John Howie, Jr. (who is also Shook's partner) on drums. The new combo, dubbed the Disarmers, cut their debut album live in the studio with Schreier at the controls. Sidelong was self-released in late 2015, and the band toured as much as Shook's commitments as a working mother would permit. The album received positive reviews for Shook's hard-edged tales of empty bottles and broken hearts, and she landed a deal with Chicago's well-established "insurgent country" label Bloodshot Records. Bloodshot gave Sidelong a nationwide reissue in 2017, and in April 2018, they dropped the second Disarmers' album, Years. ~ Mark Deming