Ruby Dee And The Snakehandlers
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Ruby Dee And The Snakehandlers

Austin, Texas, United States | Established. Jan 01, 2002 | INDIE | AFM

Austin, Texas, United States | INDIE | AFM
Established on Jan, 2002
Band Americana Rockabilly

Calendar

This band hasn't logged any future gigs

Jan
07
Ruby Dee And The Snakehandlers @ Hotel Sorella

Houston, Texas, United States

Houston, Texas, United States

Dec
23
Ruby Dee And The Snakehandlers @ Ginny's Little Longhorn

Austin, Texas, United States

Austin, Texas, United States

Nov
25
Ruby Dee And The Snakehandlers @ Ginny's Little Longhorn

Austin, Texas, United States

Austin, Texas, United States

This band has not uploaded any videos
This band has not uploaded any videos

Music

Press


When this rock-solid Americana outfit won "Favorite local band or artist" last year, we wrote: "Ruby Dee & The Snakehandlers make a sweet honky-tonk country racket that's perfect for long road trips, lazy afternoons and jumpin' and jivin' at the corner bar." Today, we believe may have underestimated the band a bit. Judging from the fervent anticipation that the band's Conrad Uno-produced debut album "North of Bakersfield" is generating, Ruby Dee and the Snakehandlers may soon leap from the corner bar to the national stage. - NWSource.com/Seattle Post-Intelligencer/Seattle Times


San Antonio Current
"Handle This" By: Dawn Pomento
08/16/2006

The story of how Ruby Dee Philippa met Jorge Harada is a fitting introduction to the saucy singer and her band, Ruby Dee and the Snakehandlers. While passing through San Antonio, the two Seattle-based musicians recounted the story of their first encounter.

They met at a dive called Little Red Hen. As Ruby Dee describes the place, "You walk in and there are ladies in beehives, and older men sitting there sucking back longnecks at the bar, and one of those claw machines that you can win a prize for the little lady, and a little tiny dance floor and even tinier stage. Some of the best honky-tonk music in Seattle goes through there".

One night, Ruby Dee was hanging out there with some friends. She had been singing backup in the band Deadwood for five years and was about to quit; she had started writing her own songs and they werent being played, so she was ready to move on. Her friends knew she wanted to put together her own band and needed a guitarist.

Ruby Dee continues the story "And one of my friends said to me, Oh theres your guitarist right over there. He pointed at Jorge. So I marched right up to him, because Im not too shy, and I said, Excuse me. I hear you're my new guitarist.' And he turned back around and looked at me and said, Well, show me what you got".

Four years later, with the additions of Liz Smith on acoustic guitar and backup vocals, Pete Smith (no relation) on bass, and Lewis Warren on drums, the band is touring to support a rambunctious debut full-length CD on the Dionysus label. Ruby Dee writes the lyrics and develops the melodies, then fleshes out the songs with the band. The result, North of Bakersfield, promises a hard-rocking live show.

Ruby Dee gives credit to Harada for working with producer Conrad Uno to capture the bands live sound. Harada has been playing guitar in bands for the past 20 years and was a member of the Las Vegas rockabilly group DRAGSTRIP 77. He says he logged a lot of studio time, and was a big part of making the DRAGSTRIP 77 albums at Ronny Weisers legendary Rolling Rock Studio.

Harada's many years of experience came in handy at the recording sessions. "With everything we've done Ive just tried to recreate what this band sounds like live", he says. "The record was recorded live. The drums and bass and the rhythm guitars were all done on the fly. My electric guitars we overdubbed, along with the pedal steel. Then we did all the vocals so we could really take our time and do them right. The number 'Make it Last', we only cut once, and that made it to the album".

The CD features a pedal steel played by Grant Johnson on several tracks. On the road, Harada takes over those parts. "I have this little gizmo called the B-Bender on the guitar, and it basically bends the strings like a pedal steel" Harada explains, then quickly qualifies that statement: "I do an emulation of a pedal steel. I imply it." Ruby Dee laughs and adds, "Don't let any pedal-steel players think we're trying to say we sound like a pedal steel because they'll come and kick our ass"

Ruby Dee and Harada share a similar musical odyssey, though they ended up in Seattle and the roots-country world via different routes. Ruby Dee grew up in what she calls the southern part of Northern California. Harada says hes from Mexico, Los Angeles, and Las Vegas. Both started out in punk bands, though Ruby Dees roots led her back to country music, and Harada transitioned from rockabilly, which he says he discovered while spending time overseas. "The most salient thing is that I listened to the Clash a lot, and there was something that was very American-sounding about it"

Though you may not find country music fans and punk aficionados fraternizing with one another very often, Dee doesnt see anything particularly strange about mixing the two sensibilities. "I think that country music and punk have a lot in common, with the subject matter", she says. "Were unhappy about something, or something went wrong, woe is me. Its all the same thing youre just saying it with a different twang. The chords are quite similar. Its the lament of whats going on, thats where true roots country comes from".

"Also, for me, after playing rockabilly music, with the intensity of being up front, its nice to back up a singer and just play the guitar instead of jump around and do that kind of stuff" adds Harada.

But that doesnt mean Ruby Dee and the Snakehandlers have forgotten their punk roots. The band, which won favorite [signed] local band/artist in a 2006 Seattle Post-Intelligencer readers poll, recently toured Alaska, playing for rough-and-tumble crowds. They have plenty of stories to tell, and theyre primed for a late-summer tour of California and Texas. Harada sums up the bands audience- pleasing strategy: "Dont let them sit down. We keep them on the dance floor as much as we can"

(August 2006 - sacurrent.com) - San Antonio Current


Ruby Dee & the Snakehandlers
Continental Club, Thursday, Aug 24

Hailing from the Pacific Northwest, the fivepiece combo Ruby Dee & the Snakehandlers circumvented flannel and grunge for a whip-smart mix of Stray Cats-fed rockabilly and Blasters-inspired alt.country with a nod toward Cash and Cline. As recent winners in Seattle for Favorite Signed Band, theyve shared stages with headliners like Wanda Jackson. Their latest CD, North of Bakersfield, exhibits deft compositions and crack musicianship with 13 songs that prove they have one cowboy boot firmly in the Southwest too. - Margaret Moser

(August 18, 2006 - austinchronicle.com) - Margaret Moser


Ruby Dee and the Snakehandlers
North of Bakersfield 2006 (Dionysius)
Reviewed by Dawn Pomento

The first song and single from the debut of Ruby Dee and the Snakehandlers is "Who Is She?" It's a jealous woman's inquiries into a no-good lover's activities, and it jump starts the CD with a Bakersfield-wrestles-rockabilly sound. This recording suggests that the quintet must kick ass on stage.

But the slower songs are also a treat because they highlight the vocal harmonies. Ruby Dee handles the lead vocals with confidence, as well she should since she wrote the clever lyrics. She has cultivated an almost flat-voiced hillybilly vocal style that works. Liz Smith adds harmony, and it's lovely to hear her sweet voice woven with Dee's. Smith also plays the acoustic guitar. Grant Johnson, a non-band member, adds the pedal steel, and it shines through on "So Lonely," another slow number.

The Seattle quintent take the roots country conventions and stamp their own influence on it. Though Dee can take credit for the classic lyrics, Jorge Harada on a big-sounding Telecaster lays the foundation for the swinging Bakersfield sound. He also co-produced it, adding a slew of other instruments. It's a solid release that will make fans of roots music look for the band with the double entendre name again.

(August-September 2006 - countrystandardtime.com) - Country Standard Time


Writer: Ruby Dee Philippa/The Snakehandlers; Producer: Conrad Uno/Jorge Harada; Publisher: North of Bakersfield, ASCAP; Dionysus (track) (www.dionysusrecords.com <http://www.dionysusrecords.com> )
—This slaps ya up the side of the head. The Snakehandlers play with plenty of honky-tonk twang, rockabilly fire and full-bore, sweaty energy. Lead vocalist Dee has loads of sass. This is the energy-packed lead-off track from the Seattle-based group’s debut full-length CD, North of Bakersfield. An auspicious hillbilly beginning. - Music Row, June 2006


Ruby Dee Philippa, lead singer for locals Ruby Dee and the Snakehandlers, promises the quintet will be back in time to play Highway 99 on Saturday, July 15, to celebrate their new CD, North of Bakersfield. But right now? She's calling from a small cafe somewhere in Juneau, as the band wraps up its second week of dates in Alaska.

To hear her tell it, Ruby Dee has always had the pioneering spirit, a willingness to hit the open road in service of good music. "I would actually drive from San Diego to Los Angeles to see X when I was 15," she recalls. "I would sleep in my car, and wash out with someone's hose behind their house."

The Snakehandlers have racked up plenty of hours and miles in the four years since their formation, taking their sweet time since the release of the 2003 EP Five for the Road. So why the hold up? "We were fine-tuning," says the singer, apropos of the long spell between records. "We had a pedal steel, and then we didn't. We had a rhythm guitarist, and then we didn't... and then she came back again. So we wanted to stabilize. We certainly didn't want to go into the studio and then have everything change again."

While solidifying that musical foundation, the group amassed an impressive fan base... who will be glad to hear that North of Bakersfield is well worth the wait. Produced by Conrad Uno and lead guitarist Jorge Harada, the 12-song set boasts several standout tracks that draw on one of country music's favorite subjects: broken hearts. On the opening "Who Is She?" Ruby wails like a young Wanda Jackson, while the band—which also features rhythm guitarist Liz Smith, bassist Pete Smith (no relation), and drummer Lewis Warren—lay down hep, hopped-up rockabilly licks, while the succinct, punchy choruses of "Now I Want You (Out of My Head)" neatly break up the longing Ruby pours into the verses.

Although she was preoccupied with romantic tribulation during the first few years of writing her own material, today Ruby Dee admits she finds herself in a different predicament. "Now the problem is, I'm in a happy relationship. I'm a little bit worried I'm going to forget how to write songs."

That seems unlikely. Elsewhere on Bakersfield, she addresses other topics with admirable aplomb. Stripped down and rhythmic, "4500 Saturdays" is an homage to her independent-minded grandmother. "Just One Day," a song about addiction, boasts a gentle but none-too-naive character that reflects the singer's fondness for Loretta Lynn and early Dolly Parton.

And like those ladies, Ruby Dee and her counterparts are surprisingly tough. Juneau may be relatively sophisticated, but not all of the Snakehandlers' Alaskan shows have been in such civilized climes. One night they may be playing for college kids, the next to a smoke-choked room of grizzled, drunken loggers and fishermen, says Ruby. "You know, the type of place you walk out of and cough up a lung."

Kurt B. Reighley
kurt@thestranger.com - The Stranger, July13th - Jul 19th


By TIZZY ASHER
SPECIAL TO THE P-I

Ruby Dee and her band, the Snakehandlers, have only been together since 2002, but already, they seem bound to become a local institution.

On any given weekend, you might find them gracing a community stage in a park or playing a county fair. They've opened for stars such as Christy McWilson and Wanda Jackson, and regularly headline on smaller nights at clubs like the Tractor and the Little Red Hen. Whenever you need them, they're around.

Part of the appeal is the band's familiar blend of Bakersfield honky-tonk, rockabilly, classic country and Western swing. For true country fans, walking into one of their shows is immediately comfortable, like visiting your neighborhood greasy spoon for breakfast.

On "North of Bakersfield" (Dionysus) is the band's long-awaited full-length debut, they stray little from that established sound. Dee's supple vocals offer twang without camp, while her band offers a mixture of Telecaster and walking bass. The recording doesn't quite capture their fiery live energy, but it's a noble effort.

With the release of "North of Bakersfield," Dee and the Snakehandlers are looking to reward their loyal fan base with a tour that includes more free shows and community festivals.

A CD-release party kicks off the tour on Saturday at the Highway 99 Blues Club (8:30 p.m.; $10). Special guests are promised. On Thursday, the band plays a free show at the Marina Park in Kirkland. - Seattle Post-Intelligencer, July 14th


Ruby Dee Philippa has truck-stop attitude and a juke-box voice. The feisty Seattle singer is deeply rooted in '60s country, what you might call "the real deal." This was when it was just country -- without a modifier.

There's no small amount of country-esque music around Seattle. There's alt-country, Americana and/or neo-country: Laura Veirs, the brilliant, folksy songwriter who plays hometown Tractor Tavern on July 27, the former Carissa's Wierd drummer Sera Cahoone (Capitol Hill Block Party), former grunger Mark Pickerel (West Seattle Street Fair on Sunday; at the Tractor Aug. 4) and Sonny Votolato's Blue Checkered Radio Player (www.bcrpmusic.com).

Country-punk, twang-rock, rockabilly, punkabilly -- Seattle's got hearty doses of those, from younger bands to veteran cowboy punkers the Supersuckers.

But country-country? Straight-up, old-school country? There's not a whole lot of that lurking around Seattle, which is one of the reasons Ruby Dee and the Snakehandlers are so fascinating.

As shown the other night at Highway 99, Ruby Dee and company don't tip their caps or wink at country, they deliver it up with sincerity -- though not without humor.

"We're gonna start off a little swampy for ya," said Philippa, a spunky brunette who likes to dance around the stage when not singing.

As sassy as a roomful of seventh-graders, she's prone to pithy introductions, such as, "This next one's about a wife beater -- y'all know who you are." Very country.

If you made her stand still and keep absolutely quiet, she might jump out of her skin ... and yet, she also can be tender and hushed, as when singing, "I will always return/by the by/to your side."

She was raised in a small town in rural, northeastern California, far from the big-city lights and big-city music. "I grew up playing banjos and fiddles on the back porch."

Philippa did have a brief hiatus from country, playing punk rock on the streets of San Francisco before moving to Seattle and returning to her country roots. She sang for cover bands for years, then "I got tired of singing other people's songs and wanted to do my own."

Ruby Dee's Snakehandlers are acoustic-guitar player/back-up singer Liz Smith, bass player Pete Smith (no relation to Liz), drummer Lewis Warren and electric-guitar man Jorge Harada.

It started about four years ago when, at the Green Lake honky-tonk bar Little Red Hen, a friend told Ruby Dee that Harada was her guitar player of destiny. "I walked up to him and said, 'I heard you're my new guitar player.' He said, 'Yeah? Let's see what you got!' "

They clicked, and the core of the band was formed, with minor lineup changes over the years. "Liz left the band when she got married," Philippa says, "and came back when she got divorced."

Told that sounds like a country song, the singer answered, "I wrote one about it!"

"So Lonely" is one of the selections on "North of Bakersfield," Ruby Dee and the Snakehandlers' debut full-length. The band has a CD-release show at 8:30 p.m. Saturday at Highway 99 ($10). For more info, see www.rubydeemusic.com.

Tom Scanlon: tscanlon@seattletimes.com - Seattle Times, July 14th


"Ruby Dee & The Snake Handlers make a sweet honky-tonk country racket that's perfect for long road trips, lazy afternoons and jumpin' and jivin' at the corner bar. If you like Hank Williams, Patsy Cline, Buck Owens, X or any combination thereof, you'll immediately recognize the band as kindred souls. If you don't like those great artists, guess what? You may end up dancing to The Snake Handlers anyway, despite yourself. The band's that good." - NWSource/Seattle PI-Times


Ruby Dee And The Snakehandlers
MILES FROM HOME (Dionysus)

Sure, these Seattle honky-tonkers are cutting a familiar path, one paved in hardwood slick with beer and littered with broken hearts, but with such a swell bunch of songs, that’s not a problem. Their sophomore full length, with Conrad Uno back on board, mines country and rock’s past glories with swagger and skill. Ruby Dee’s rockabilly twang-and-growl is not overly distinctive, but her energy and instincts can’t be denied. She’s at her toughest on “Don’t Need A Man�, a blaster featuring guitarist Jorge Harada. She’s also adept at late-night lonesome fare (�Round And Round�, “Cry All Over Me�) and mid-tempo, narrative-based songs (�Cold Pines And Red Dirt�). A cover of Hank Williams’ “Settin’ The Woods On Fire� could use a little more firepower, but Harada’s cool instrumental “Gunslinger (Return Of Nobody)� is a winner. MILES FROM HOME is affectionate of history but far from a museum piece, unless the museum comes with swinging doors.
- Andy Turner
- No Depression #75 (May-June 2008)


Discography

Still working on that hot first release.

Photos

Bio


The fourteen-year-old four-piece combo — led by
vocalist/songwriter Ruby Dee and guitarist Jorge Harada, and supported
by Dylan Cavaliere on doghouse bass and Scott L. French on drums, with
frequent guest artists onstage and in the studio — plays an Americana
that encompasses Northwest alt-country, Texas honky-tonk, Bakersfield
twang, Memphis rockabilly, Western swing and good old-fashioned rock ’n’
roll.

After nearly constant touring for the past fourteen years, including
1200-plus dates across America, Europe and Australia, songs from the
band’s fourth album, MILES FROM HOME (Dionysus Records, June 2008;
produced by Conrad Uno), still earn steady airplay, including “Cold
Pines and Red Dirt,” which earned band front woman- lead vocalist and
songwriter Ruby Dee- runner-up honors in Songwriter magazine’s 2007
competition. The album charted in at #86 on the AMA Top 100 for more
than four weeks and #26 on the Texas Third Coast Music FAR Top 40. The
“Round and Round” video, released in May 2009, earned great acclaim with
its cameos of Seattle rockabilly musicians and famous musical
neighborhoods.


“Blending snarling rockabilly with honky-tonk heartache, Ruby Dee and
The Snakehandlers have crafted their best recorded set thus far,” said
Blue Suede News of the album. “The heart of the 13-song set emanates
from Dee’s original material which combines poetic expressionism and
hillbilly sass. Aided by Jorge Harada’s top-flight guitar work — which
alternates ballroom tenderness with rowdy roadhouse rock — she sounds
like a Texas dance hall chanteuse visiting us from another era.”


With a reputation for high-energy shows that precedes them, Ruby Dee
and The Snakehandlers deliver to capacity crowds in clubs, festivals and
events, starting in the Pacific Northwest, where right off the bat,
they were voted Best Band in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer People’s
Picks 2005 & Best Signed Band in the People’s Picks 2006. The band’s
first full-length CD, Uno-produced NORTH OF BAKERSFIELD, earned huge
airplay in the United States, Europe and Australia, and charted
repeatedly on the European Americana list.


The music has gotten a hold on audiences near and far: a combination
of Ruby’s singing and songwriting, wrought from her childhood spent
between the no-longer-wild foothills of Northern California and the long
straight roads around Big Spring, Texas; her time escaping to South
America, driving a truck, working Alaskan fishing boats and more …


And Gretch-endorsed guitarist Jorge Harada has poured heart and sweat
all over his Tennessee Rose guitar in such bands as The Spitfires and
rockabilly giants DRAGSTRIP 77.


Providing the rock-solid honky-tonk groove backing Ruby and Jorge are
Dylan Cavaliere on doghouse bass and AJ Mancabelli on cathouse drums.
Together, they have played six successful European tours and a rockin'
Australian tour, as well as a variety of dates across the United States.


The band’s release LIVE FROM AUSTIN TEXAS came out in 2011 on both CD
and vinyl, showcasing a few new songs and fans old favorites cranked up
with that live jumpin’ sound for which the Snakehandlers are so well
known. Songs from the CD charted for over 10 weeks on both the AMA and
Third Coast Music charts and earned the band a Grammy consideration for
Best Americana Album.


Ruby Dee and the Snakehandlers released their fifth full-length
project: ROCKABILLY PLAYGROUND, a children’s rockabilly and roots
record. With songs about bullies, homework, nap-time, super best friends
and more, the band is having a great time writing and playing, and
looks forward to sharing the CD with you. The CD charted at #15 on the
FAR charts and #103 on the AMA charts, and was on the 56th Grammy Awards
ballot for Best Children’s Album! As always, stay tuned!


“Risky — and perhaps just a bit risqué — Ruby Dee and The
Snakehandlers conjure forth all sorts of visions of another time,” said
Metro Santa Cruz after a California show. “Rooted firmly in the classic
country and rockabilly tradition, the band is an authentic backdrop for
lead singer Ruby Dee’s blend of Wanda Jackson sass and Patsy Cline
pathos. The band holds it down with the insistence of a chugging train
while Dee, a pinup heartbreaker of yesteryear with thoroughly modern
attitude, commands the stage.”


Band Members