Shaking Tree blends Latin, Celtic and African rhythms with alternative rock |

Shaking Tree blends Latin, Celtic and African rhythms with alternative rock

DILLON – Kansas may be considered middle-America, but it’s not exactly the center of the music scene. So Kansas-based Shaking Tree has relied on its strong musicianship and subtle sense of humor to spread its roots throughout the nation.

Guitarist Dain Estes never thought much about how he measured time by the number of beers it took to pass the hours – or the miles – until he played at the Olympics in Salt Lake City last year and someone pointed out the subtle humor in his songs. For him, joking about measuring the miles between small Kansas towns – made up almost entirely of people he’s related to – was as accurate as an odometer.

Experiences like having female friends tell him he’s the “perfect guy” – then ignoring him as potential relationship material and trying to transform other men into Mr. Right – led him to write “Perfect Man.”

Estes and Tom Waddington (on violin, mandolin, guitar and percussion) formed Shaking Tree in 1996. After cycling though two bassists and three drummers, the outfit settled into a four-piece, eclectic, alternative rock band that combines world beat textures with pop sensibilities.

“It’s just a little bit off the beaten track of what people would think pop is,” Estes said. “We use different aspects of music that most people in pop music don’t use. We incorporate styles of African, Latin and Celtic music. It’s the base of that beat, but it’s not what the original ethnic beat would be. It’s more rocking.”

Estes and Waddington switch between playing the violin, mandolin and guitar, and at times, all four players jam on percussion. Drummer Justin Klein and bassist Derek Swensen drive the songs rhythmically, while Estes infuses poetic lyrics and soulful sounds and Waddington carries the melody even further.

While many bands evolve into a more complex sound, Shaking Tree has rooted itself in simplicity for the sake of the music.

“You start to learn how important space is in the music,” Estes said. “It’s so common for players to try to play the hardest they can, but playing a little can be so much better than playing a lot. When you find something simpler, it sounds better. Instead of a lot of notes, what you hear is spaced out phasing that makes the song move and makes it sound a lot better. When you hear a good song, well orchestrated, it all comes together at once (as opposed to individual musicians who) stand out and take away from the songs.”

The band has made a name for itself nationally, appearing as the house band on the Jenny Jones Show and opening for Merle Saunders, Jerry Garcia Band and the Push Stars. The Disney Channel, the Discovery Channel and MTV’s “The Real World” and “Road Rules” have used its songs, and director Jeff Anderson (“Clerks”) ran one of its songs in the ending credits of “Now You Know.”

Shaking Tree recorded its latest album, “Matter of Choice,” with Knot Known Records, in conjunction with producer John Hampton (who worked with the Replacements, Sister Hazel and Lynyrd Skynyrd).

The band shakes Lake Dillon Pub tonight.

Kimberly Nicoletti can be reached at (970) 668-3998 ext. 245 or by e-mail at

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