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 One part spaghetti western, 2 parts blues rock, a dash of country, and a whole lot of fun. If you ask Johnny, fun is really what it’s all about. From riding with raffish New England motorcycle gang, the Rapscallions, to prairie skiing (don’t ask) near his home town somewhere between North Texas and Oklahoma, his music has always been a byproduct of adventure and a life fraught with hard knocks and fast living.

As the name suggests, Johnny’s debut self produced LP, Chasing Ghosts, cleans out the closet. Smoking cigarettes for the last time with lost loves, keeping one hand on the bottle, and going down to the crossroads to sell your soul in order to play the guitar (true story), but the devil never shows up (or did he?); each song told in Southern storyteller fashion, paying tribute to Johnny’s literary past. The closing track on the album, Revival, even hints at the suicide notes left behind by the likes of Hemingway and Hunter S. Thompson.

Now, Living in Maine, and performing with The Johnny Clay Shanks Band, Johnny’s newest release, Hell to Maine tells a story of barely scraping by, while finding warmth in love even in the midst of a cruel winter, and a haunted past.



Lead Vocals, Guitar / Johnny Clay Shanks
Bass, Vocals / Jacob McCurdy
Guitar / Mick Ramos
Keys / Mike Maurice
Drums / Jonathan Moore


The Wire - Single

by Johnny Clay Shanks
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Hell to Maine - Single

by Johnny Clay Shanks


3.10.2018 / Live at the Maine Irish Heritage Center

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Chasing Ghosts

by Johnny Clay Shanks




Relief from gravities tether.

Johnny Clay Shanks Band, storytelling the way it should be.

Author: Nate Eldridge Published: 11:19 AM EDT May 1, 2019

PORTLAND, Maine — Music moves us, stirs our currents, shakes our foundations and quakes the tether that roots us. Think of the many songs you've heard that have played in the soundtrack of your life. The ballads and anthems, the bending of words to notes that float above us, you wonder, at times, can anyone else hear what I am hearing? The tingle in your spine, the ache in your teeth as you gaze into the rotting maw of the 'forlorn rags of growing old.' Then some new melody appears, a story told bending words in ways you didn't know they could be bent suggesting you walk within the shadows of the flames. This isn't some campfire singalong, this is something different. It's Johnny Clay Shanks fronting his band that picks up the torch where Uncle Tupelo left it, having picked it up where Graham Parson's hid it. it's still burning and Shanks is adding some gasoline to this fire. He's wrapped the torch in Texas thunderstorms and mixed them with the hoary northern winters we share here in Maine. If you listen closely, you can hear the crickets in Texas, chirping with the tree frogs in Cumberland. He's bridging that gap.

He's surrounded himself with some folks that found the same forge to bend them. He starts his lament in The Wire unaccompanied, but slowly, without notice, the band has filled the void and wrapped its bony fingers around your heart. Shanks brings you on the journey and they pick you up, just enough to relieve gravities tether and let you recognize there is something looking back from deep in the void. 

So as you walk into that last good night, there's still hope for what you may leave behind.

But don't take my word for it. Johnny Clay Shanks is playing at Empire May 4th, and half of the show is a tribute to the man in black. 


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