Editor's ChoiceStephen Anderson Collection

Royal Horses “Live at The Shed BBQ & Blues Joint” Was No April Fools

By Johnny Cole

Photos by Stephen Anderson
Art by Robby Amonett
Additional Editing by Brenda Germany

On Saturday evening, April 2nd of 2022, Royal Horses took a packed house on a ride that provided a lesson in how a rock & roll show should ultimately be during these crazy times. For the last few years, The Southland Music Line has been following Royal Horses with growing appreciation. We have seen the band in its original three man lineup put out a well-received debut album (A Modern Man’s Way To Improve, originally released on vinyl in 2019), make slight changes and additions to its lineup be willing to take chances, and roll the dice, yet, not sacrifice the hard work required to achieve its goals.

In early 2021, Royal Horses (then consisting of Shelby Kemp, Daniel Firth & Kenny Ward Mann) gave one of the best unplugged shows that I have seen in recent years by a hard-driven rock & roll band. They took a chance at The Peoples Room of Mobile, which turned out to be one of my favorite shows of 2021. Since then, Royal Horses have seen a few changes to its lineup while remaining focused on becoming a band with something to prove.

Prior to the “Long Pause” in live music (the Pandemic), I regularly attended up to 300 shows each year. I was able to follow several tours and travel to various locations around the world. It’s unusual to witness a band or music artist who seem to possess that rarest of qualities you believe Hendrix, Joplin, Morrison and CBGB’s Hilly Kristal would truly be excited about amongst all those attempting greatness. Surely there are many who attempt or have a hope, but don’t quite measure up.

Top photo: Royal Horses at The Shed in Ocean Springs, MS; Above photo: The Shed BBQ & Blues Joint in Ocean  Springs, MS

On this particular evening at The Shed BBQ & Blues Joint, or as I used to call it “the I-10 & Highway 57 Crossroads”, Royal Horses simply raised the roof with a powerful performance in one soul-stirring set without a break or net to catch them if anyone fell. The present lineup of Shelby Kemp (guitar/vocals), Daniel Firth (percussion/vocals), Scott Chism (bass) and Jackson Weldon (lap steel & mandolin) was joined for this show by Brandon Kenyan (a vocalist & a top notch musician from the highly successful Blackwater Brass) who added a bit of cool brass to Royal Horses’ already brilliant sound.

During the Summer of 2021, founding member Kenny Paul Mann decided to come off the road and leave the band as a full time member, though he remains very close to the band. Scott Chism from the Hattiesburg, MS music scene (Scott Chism and the Better Half; Cary Hudson’s Piney Woods Players), someone we’ve enjoyed knowing for years, took over bass duties. Jackson Weldon (known for his time with Rosco Bandana and Dr. Bacon) eventually joined the band following an impromptu jam session in Ocean Springs in 2021. Jackson, known for his gifted skills on the lap steel and mandolin, has been a friend to The Southland Music Line since he was part of Rosco Bandana. We closely followed that band for a few very memorable years at shows in Austin, Atlanta, Jackson, Montgomery, New Orleans and everywhere else in between. Jackson’s addition to Royal Horses brings an added ingredient to their already accomplished sound. Chism and Weldon fit nicely into a band already followed by a growing fanbase.

Royal Horses at The Shed” A painting by Robby Amonett

Personally, I feel that the Royal Horses’ April 2nd show at The Shed did everything right while diving face forward into a mixture of favorite originals and covers that would make the purist of music fans smile. They did classic Hendrix, an unbelievable cover of James McMurtry’s “Choctaw Bingo” (not an easy thing to do), the Allman Brothers’ “Whipping Post” and even a cover of Talking Head’s “Psycho Killer” that would have pleased the most die-hard of fans during CBGB’s heyday. I had not seen that kind of passion for that song done live since the days Ben Kaufman was playing bass for Kaboom. Let me just say, I was all smiles as they covered that classic tune accompanied by Brandon Kenyan of Blackwater Brass with guest vocals and a one-man horn section.

Following the show it was evident these guys had put it all on stage. They left a crowd of both old and new fans pleased beyond words. Royal Horses have lots of music soon to be released and plans of continuing non-stop live appearances across the region and abroad. I believe Royal Horses have the ability to take things as far as they are willing to pursue. Achieving success with a band has never been an easy thing to do. I have seen bands who had every single circle dotted or checked off fail to reach what seemed to be within their grasp.

From Left: Shelby Kemp, Scott Chism, Brandon Kenyan of Blackwater Brass, Daniel Firth & Jackson Weldon at The Shed BBQ & Blues Joint in Ocean Springs, MS

As with all live music, some nights are better than others, but I can never imagine Royal Horses “phoning in” a performance, they are likely going to give it their all at each and every show. I told the guys that I could see them on stage at Glastenbury, Hyde Park, Bonnaroo or Coachella, because they would understood the audience and had the ability of capturing the hearts and souls of everyone beyond that stage. If anyone thinks rock & roll is dead or on life support, they need to check out Royal Horses. For an old rock & roll guy like me, I am actually excited about where things could be going for Royal Horses – they have given me hope that things aren’t done yet. Their blend of roots rock, funky tonk, psychedelia and Americana is finding its place. The rest is up to them. My hope is to see them succeed and expand on everything needed to get to the place where all great bands shine – and that is no April Fools.

In 2013, Stephen Anderson, Robby Amonett and I launched The Southland Music Line and have often debated a variety of up-and-coming bands and music artists…. well, Royal Horses is one band that we all agree upon and it was pleasure for the three of us to be at the April 2nd Royal Horses’ show at The Shed. We anxiously look forward to seeing what’s next for this Hattiesburg, Mississippi based band and if our predictions are correct, things look promising.

Additional Photos of this event by Stephen Anderson:

Royal Horses at The Shed BBQ & Blues Joint in Ocean Springs, MS

Royal Horses at The Shed BBQ & Blues Joint in Ocean Springs, MS

Jackson Weldon of Royal Horses

Royal Horses at The Shed BBQ & Blues Joint in Ocean Springs, MS

Royal Horses at The Shed BBQ & Blues Joint in Ocean Springs, MS

Jackson Weldon of Royal Horses

Shelby Kemp of Royal Horses 

Daniel Firth of Royal Horses 

Scott Chism of Royal Horses

Brandon Kenyan (from Blackwater Brass) joined Royal Horses on this evening at The Shed

Shelby Kemp of Royal Horses at The Shed BBQ & Blues Joint in Ocean Springs, MS

Jackson Weldon of Royal Horses at The Shed BBQ & Blues Joint in Ocean Springs, MS

Robby Amonett painting the night’s performance

The Shed BBQ & Blues Joint in Ocean Springs, MS

Royal Horses with sound man, Hayden Flint, at The Shed BBQ & Blues Joint in Ocean Springs, MS

The Shed BBQ & Blues Joint in Ocean Springs, MS

Click Here for Royal Horses’ official website.
Click Here for The Shed’s official website.


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© The Southland Music Line. 2022.
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