There’s always been an interesting musical connection between California and Tennessee. Throughout country music’s history that renegade West Coast spirit has whipped through Nashville as Buck Owens, Merle Haggard and Dwight Yoakam left their mark on country music’s landscape.
With “Send It East,” the Boot Band appears next in line to add a new chapter to the California Country legacy. Mixing traditional country music with a little rock ‘n roll attitude, the Old Boot Band has earned a rabid following that is propelling the group from regional success to the national spotlight.
In fact, it was during a recent performance that a fan shouted out the phrase that would become the title of the band’s new album. “We were down in Palm Springs playing and the crowd was going nuts!,” recalls Boot Band founder/lead vocalist J.D. Bauman. “Suddenly a guy stood up on the table and started pointing east to Nashville shouting, ‘Send it east! Send it east!’ And that became the name of this album.”
Bauman and the band are accustomed to such enthusiastic declarations. “We play country music, but it also has a rock ‘n roll mentality in some respects. It’s feel good music with some drive behind it.” ”It’s also important that we keep the traditions of country music alive though,”
Bauman started the band in 1999, recruiting his father, Dan Bauman, a veteran on the California country scene. A native of Santa Rosa in Northern California, the younger Bauman had grown up listening to an eclectic blend of music, most of it rock. “One night I sat him down and said, ‘Son, you need to listen to some good music,’” recalls Dan. “I brought out these old records by Marty Robbins, Don Williams, Waylon Jennings and Merle Haggard. He started listening and it was like a light bulb came on. He started playing something that I could relate to and he put this group together. I came down one night to listen to them and low and behold, I started playing with the band. It’s been a heck of a lot of fun. There’s nothing better I like to do than to play music with my best friend and my son happens to be my best friend.”
Separately, each member of the Boot Band is an accomplished musician, but together there’s a musical chemistry that some have dubbed “90 Proof Country Music.” They all come from different places musically, but find common ground in the Old Boot Band.”
Dan agrees. “It works because everybody in this group brings something to the party. We are such an eclectic collection of talent. Our influences come from several different directions and somehow they unite and create this sound that is pretty unusual. We really appeal to a wide demographic. People come up to us after a show who are in their 60s and say, ‘You guys are great! We just love listening to you!’ And at the same time, there’s a whole crowd of people around J.D. that are in their early 20’s saying ‘You guys rock!’”
The Old Boot Band won the state finals of the 22nd Annual Colgate Country Showdown and have shared the stage with the Charlie Daniels Band, Willie Nelson, the Doobie Brothers, Joe Diffie, Little Feat and .38 Special. The band also gained coveted exposure when J.D. co-hosted a weekly Friday night radio show on North Bay country station KFGY. In addition to interviewing such artists as Sara Evans, Hank Williams Jr. and Charlie Daniels, J.D. was also able to share Old Boot Band music with their local fan base.
For their new project, “Send It East,” the band traveled to Nashville where they found themselves in the studio merging their West Coast sensibilities with some of Music City’s seasoned pros, among them pedal steel guitar legend Dan Dugmore, Garth Brooks’ guitarist Chris Leuzinger and acclaimed songwriter/producer/drummer Harry Stinson, who helped mix the album. The result is an album that not only spotlights J.D.’s talents as a songwriter, but the band’s taut musicianship and unique vocal attack.
“One thing that I think is a very strong point with this group is there are many of us that sing in the band,” says J.D., who admits he’s always been a fan of groups like the Oak Ridge Boys and Alabama that feature different vocalists.
Like their musical heroes, the Boot Band records songs that resonate strong with their audience---songs that echo the triumphs and tragedies of everyday life. “Country music is about telling a story,” says Dan. “We want songs that we can all relate to, songs that tell a story people can identify with.”
Among the album’s highlights is “See You in My Dreams,” a tender ballad about closing your eyes and feeling close to the one you love. Penned by J.D., it chronicles the emotions of a musician on the road missing that special girl back home. J.D. also contributes “What I’d Do for You,” a sultry ballad that echoes a man’s love and devotion. “We created something that we’re all really proud of,” J.D. says of the new album.
“We covered a Waylon Jennings, and a Johnny Cash song. If it wasn’t for them I would not be playing country the way I do, I have the utmost respect for them.” “I hope they have honky tonks in heaven, maybe I can jam with them someday”
Compelling songs, skilled musicianship and ear-grabbing vocals blend into a potent musical cocktail that make the Old Boot Band one of country music’s most promising acts. “It definitely sounds different,” J.D. says of the Old Boot Band’s style. “We’re not from Nashville and we don’t look like we’re from Nashville. We’re not following anybody. We’re not trying to be anything like anyone else. We just are what we are.”