Texas native and current State College resident Kristi Jean grew up riding shotgun in her father’s pickup truck driving the small-town roads of Howe, Texas, with the AM radio tuned to traditional country music.
Jean tried to reject her country roots and paid her way through college belting rock-n’-roll tunes in bars, honky-tonks, bowling alleys and dancehalls across the mid-west, trying desperately to hide her Texas twang and accent.
With her new album, “Country-Billy Collision,” and her new band, the Ne’er-Do-Wells, Jean is coming full circle to honor the traditional country of her youth, while keeping her feisty spirit alive.
The new album reflects a time in musical history when traditional country artists and their steel guitars ran headlong into a new jumpin' style of jazz and rhythm-and-blues with gritty guitars and cranked amplifiers. It's is a reminder of the earliest days of rockabilly and early rock n' roll, and has been a hit among swing and country dancers.
Ameripolitian Award winner for best western swing and renowned Austin, Texas guitar slinger Sophia Johnson has become a fan of Jean’s music.
“There are some real hidden gems and I think (Jean's) record is not only a great idea as a concept to get some of these rocking songs out there, but Kristi and the gang also really hit the nail on the head for authenticity and style," said Johnson.
Both Johnson and rockabilly legend Chuck Hughes, of the band Hillbilly Hellcats, contributed guitar and vocals to the new album. Local musicians also contributed, including Bill Wilgus from the Erin Condo Band and the doo-wop group Rama-Lama.
On Friday, the band will be hosting a 1950s-themed CD release and dance party to celebrate the official release. The party will include special musical guests, free East Coast Swing dance lessons, 1950s-themed hors d’oeuvres, a door prize for best 1950s costume, two free drinks (wine or beer) and a free CD with the $10 price admission.
The party will be from 7 to 9 p.m. at Webster’s Bookstore Café at 133 E. Beaver Ave., with dance lessons to begin at 6:15 p.m.
Physical copies of the CD will be available at the upcoming release party, on the band’s website, and through most major online retailers on Friday.