Rearrange some Steel Cranes songs, add a little fiddle and steel guitar, and you’d have some no-nonsense, woman-done-wrong country music.
“I write a lot of our songs on my acoustic and they often initially have a country feel to them,” says Steel Cranes vocalist and guitarist Tracy Shapiro. “We usually butcher things once Amanda [Shukle] is on drums and I switch to my electric,” she jokes.
As it is, the Oakland, California-based band are a punchy, crunchy and grinding White Stripes-style guitar-and-drums outfit. What’s the missing link between White Stripes and country music? Brokenhearted themes of the working class: “Everything I do reminds me of you,” sings Shapiro in “Boat Song” from Steel Cranes’ latest release Ouroboros, her voice recalling Karen O of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. “Five dollars for a beer/ No dollars for the tip jar” she sings on the punk and blues album opener, “Anthem,” before lamenting, “I go home poor.”
“Lyric-wise, I’m quite a sucker for honest, heartbreaking songs,” Shapiro says. “And if there’s a little twang in the mix, I’m done for.” Shukle adds, “I usually tell people we’re like Black Sabbath meets The Pretenders with some punk rock thrown in. We aim to break your heart and kick your ass at the same time.”
And what inspires Steel Cranes’ heavier side?
“I listen to lots of music and have lots of guitar idols,” Shukle says. “I help Tracy to get the nastiest tones possible,” mentioning influences like Tony Iommi (Black Sabbath), At the Drive-In and The Afghan Whigs.
Steel Cranes play with garage-punk band Brown Town and Pluto the Planet 9 pm Wednesday, Oct. 8, at Sam Bond’s; $5.