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New Sheriffs in town: behind the scenes with one of Boston's country music kings

Is Boston a fertile ground for a country scene? Brian Scully of Dalton and the SherifDrea Catalano

One of the rules of the local rock scene has always been that a band shouldn’t play two local gigs at different clubs within two weeks of each other. The logic goes that it waters down the crowd at both shows. Dalton and the Sheriffs break this law on a weekly basis. One of the reasons they’re able to get away with it is that Dalton and the Sheriffs aren’t exactly part of the local rock scene. These guys are cowboys on the wild frontier of the local country scene.

“We have eight shows scheduled in four days this weekend,” says singer Brian Scully. “I’ve just always believed that if you’re doing your job and working hard and playing what people want to hear and bringing in a crowd, it works out.”

It does indeed seem to be working out. Scully cut his teeth in that aforementioned rock scene for nearly a decade, playing in bands he says you wouldn’t remember. “This band right now is a good eight years of being in bands and making mistakes,” he says. When the legendary local rock radio station WBCN folded in 2009, he had a revelation.

“That was a seminal rock station in the U.S., breaking bands left and right, and I think that when that happened, country filled that void for people, and as that sort of thing was starting to happen across the nation, country really added a lot of rock elements to it,” he says.

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Scully found that the narrative songs he had been writing his whole life lent themselves to this more rocking country sound. His voice is definitely closer to a grunge growl than a Tennessee twang. He began playing country songs on an acoustic guitar in a bar in Southie. As he built a following, he was also building a band, which in turn led to building even more of a following as he brought the band to the Sunday shows. Eventually this led to residencies at the Bell in Hand on Thursday nights and at Brighton Music Hall on Friday nights, the latter of which has a capacity of nearly 500.

“The one thing that we do is when we find a place, we build a crowd, and that takes a lot of effort. And sometimes that means playing three hours straight to make sure that if you’ve got 50 people in a bar, no one leaves because you took a break,” says Scully. “We keep waiting for people to tell us they don’t want us to play anymore, and it hasn’t happened. We’ve all been in places where people have told us to go home. So for now, we’re just going to keep showing up.”

Taking a 'Backroad' to stardom

With the amount of gigs per year that Dalton and the Sheriffs play, you’d think the band members wouldn’t need day jobs. However, two of the members have careers that required grad school, and with those careers, they prefer to keep a level of anonymity in their music that a name like Dalton and the Sheriffs provides. (Note: None of the guys in the band are named Dalton, and no, none of them are sheriffs as their day jobs.)

“We just tried to keep the two as separate as possible for as long as possible and it’s getting a little bit harder now because we’re playing a lot more high-profile shows and stuff like that,” says Scully. “There’s nothing that we do that we’re embarrassed by, but it’s just one of those things we try not to highlight.”

One of the things that Dalton and the Sheriffs are highlighting, however, is that starting this spring, they’ll release a single each month, leading up to a release party at the House of Blues this summer. Their most recent single, “Flying Down a Backroad,” just cracked the iTunes country 200 charts in November.

“We do this because we love it,” says Scully, “and we do this because we still have our dreams of doing this as a living.”

If you go

Dalton and the Sheriffs

Thursdays, 9 p.m.

The Bell in Hand

45 Union St., Boston

Free, 617-227-2098

www.bellinhand.com

Fridays, 10:30 p.m.

Brighton Music Hall

Free, 800-745-3000

www.livenation.com

 
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