Award-winning Salida duo releases new music

Please don’t ask Salida recording artists Duke and Tami Sheppard the question, “Who’s the Pint and who’s the Half?” Just know, a pint and a half will always be 50 percent more than just a pint.

And what’s in a pint? It will be an authentic, thoughtful beverage with body and flavor, most typically. Now don’t get mad – cans have a solid role out in the field. Those snifters of fancy beer/wine give the proper noseful of whatever you just paid $14 for, and wiry flutes of light provide a solid grasp on at least something in “the club.”

But Duke and Tami Sheppard’s new music proves once again they are real, thoughtful, full of well-balanced flavor and detail, without pretension or hype, continually harnessing something intangible, feel-good and addictive. A pint. And a half.

Their new release is a single on Howlin’ Dog Records called “Mountains, Rivers, Music.” It’s their first work that comes out through full label support. Although they recorded 2017’s full-length album Boomtown Ghosts with Howlin’ Dog Records owner and producer Don Richmond, they have now fully joined the label family, a significant event in the life cycle of a modern touring musician.

Independent labels like Howlin’ Dog provide typical assistance in production and marketing but still make the effort to coalesce musicians around an aesthetic. In this case, it’s what Richmond calls “Southwest Americana.” That is useful only to say they are touring musicians based in the Southwest who write lyrics and sing live to people as a way of life. Artists like Bob Livingston, hONEy hoUSe, Chris J. Arellano, Jordyn Pepper and The Rifters create a diverse catalog of songwriting that Richmond supports with his session skills and production to bring out blues, original country, Norteno and even Cajun roots.

Richmond’s ability to spot artistic vision and lay in extra instrumental tracks, is something that the Sheppards really appreciate. As a producer, “Don is most of the time right on with his suggestions, except for once,” says Sheppard. “I draw the line at penny whistle.”

The new single, “Mountains, Rivers, Music,” finds the pair doing more intricate designs with the music they have defined over the years. Lyrically, it begins to open up the back gate on the Sheppard household and air out some of Duke’s more recent thoughts as travel, more singing and more modern life have passed under foot.

The tune speaks of good friends and good fun around the campfire. It’s clear that this music is the reward for toiling through the economic routine and for trying to stay plugged in each weekday. Sorting through all the hyperbole and digital hype to preserve our humanity is kind of exhausting, right? “Mountains, Rivers, Music” is a backcountry version of the “Friday Night” song. Think “Working for the Weekend” without the angst, or Zac Brown’s “Chicken Fried” in a world without shopping malls or Crisco. “As I drift down that clear stream to the other side/All of creation in view/No wifi will reach into my perfect dream/Tweets will be birds and my cares will be few.” It’s unplugging and just being real the way we do it in the mountains.

Pint and a Half has retained every bit of Duke Sheppard’s artful and mood-ranging songwriting skills and Tami Sheppard’s way-down-deep performances. As they work further into the music industry, there hasn’t been a reach to create a separate studio or touring band sound, just an effort to keep to true, organic performances. Pint and a Half fits in and defines the wider Howlin’ Dog sound the same way they have helped define the Salida sound. Both Sheppards agree that “Americana” is a word that results much from the fact that we are really post-genre. What we can hear that defines music now is the time, the place, the people and the feeling.

Tami Sheppard muses on Salida as a music town, “It’s amazing that on Friday or Saturday in the middle of the winter, there are four or five places to see live music.”

“Most towns of 5,000 people don’t have that,” adds Duke. When asked about how supportive Salida was before they were a known entity, Tami replied, “Ray Kitson (Boathouse Cantina owner) approached us after an open mic and asked us to do a two-hour show, and I was like – people will pay us to do this?!”

Of course, small-town pay is a different scale, but talent and hard work have been accompanied by steady raises and sales of recordings. Both have helped launch the band toward national touring and signing with label support. “We love to travel and find new audiences, but we always feel so loved when we come back home to Salida,” says Tami.

The group of musicians that came together in Salida for a super-group performance of Salida’s First Last Waltz the day before Thanksgiving was both inspiring and a confirmation of the talented musical tribe they have seen grow in their time here.

“Even when we are supposed to be taking a break, it seems like we can’t keep up with the schedule of jamming and seeing all the new configurations that are playing out now in Salida,” says Tami. “There is definitely something unique about the Salida music scene.”

Together, they have put 14,000 miles on their new Sprinter RV in four months. Their level of success is measured by the fact that the new RV has a toilet, shower and fridge. As one of our most iconic exports of the day, Pint and a Half is planning to travel to picturesque towns to satisfy their outdoors and hiking fixes while introducing themselves to new audiences from Texas to Idaho.

With a growing audience drawn out with their woodsy, folksy, relatable themes, they are starting to require more seats and better distribution. Their recent Swallow Hill performance in Denver and the upcoming Folk Alliance International Conference in Kansas City Feb. 15 promise big exposure, as does the release of the new single today. It will be available on their website at Pint-and-a-Half.com and on CDBaby.com. Streaming and download services will pick it up about a week later.