Cincy’s Whiskey Shambles will rock for a fallen friend

Cincinnati rockers the Whiskey Shambles are bluesy, raw, intense and ominous.

And big-hearted. They’ll fit in nicely at the Royal Oaks this Saturday.

It will be the quartet’s Youngstown debut, and also a testament to the bond of friendship.

Saturday’s show is a benefit to raise funds for the children of the late Michael Lipinsky, a Youngstown native who died suddenly in December at age 40. Lipinsky left behind a wife, Debra, and three small children.

Brother James (his real name is James Czar, and folks from his hometown of Campbell might remember him as James Grajczar) is the bassist and co-founder of the Whiskey Shambles. He’s also a long-time friend of Lipinsky.

The two went to Cardinal Mooney High School together and roomed together their freshman year at the University of Cincinnati.

When Brother James heard of Lipinsky’s death, he was moved to help.

“We had a lot of good times our freshman year at college,” said Brother James. “If our roles had been reversed, he would have done the same for me.”

Admission is $5, with every penny going to an education fund for Lipinsky’s children, which has been set up at Home Savings and Loan.

Lipinsky transferred to Youngstown State University after leaving Cincinnati. He had been working as a truck driver for the Tamarkin Co. and was a Teamster and a member of St. Charles Church.

Saturday’s event will begin at 8 p.m. There will be a buffet, prize raffles and more, proceeds from which also will benefit the children’s fund. Folks also can donate by mailing a check made out to “Michael Lipinsky Children Education Fund” to Home Savings and Loan, 275 W. Federal St., PO Box 1111, Youngstown, OH 44501.

Saturday’s show will be more than a good cause. It’s a chance to catch one of the top bands from the opposite corner of the state.

The Whiskey Shambles will perform at 10 p.m. Fans of the Black Keys, Jack White, Screaming Jay Hawkins, the Heavy and Gary Clark Jr. will especially like what they hear.

Brother James has been working in the public relations field for almost 20 years, but he has been in rock bands since he was a sophomore at Mooney. He has found the most success with the Whiskey Shambles, which he formed two years ago with Nathan Singer, who is the lead vocalist.

The band also includes Aaron Tyree on drums and Latanya Foster — a classically trained opera singer — on vocals.

“She is a singer with the Cincinnati Opera and had never been in a band, so it was an entirely new experience for her,” said Brother James. “She has come to love what we do, and she threw herself into it, but she brings this classical training and adds whole new dimension to what we do. She wasn’t in the original scope of the band, but I love where it snowballed.”

The Whiskey Shambles plays mostly originals, but they also like to put a fresh spin on old blues classics from the 1920s, ’30s and ’40s. The band will release its next album, “Loose Change for a Broken Man,” this summer.


Kevin Costner made a grand entrance at Tuesday night’s concert at Packard Music Hall in Warren.

After a long video montage of scenes from his movies, the actor-musician emerged from a side entrance on the floor into the middle of the audience, and greeted fans while slowly making his way to the stage.

The crowd of about 1,500 stood and roared as if for a conquering hero, and why not? Costner was the Leonardo DiCaprio of the late ’80s. Between 1987 and 1990, he starred in a movie a year, each an enduring classic, and all on my short list of favorites: “The Untouchables,” “Bull Durham,” “Field of Dreams” and “Dances With Wolves.”

So it didn’t hurt to remind the audience exactly who they had in their midst. Don’t even pretend to separate the actor from the musician.

Tuesday’s concert was filmed for an unnamed future project, and I’d wager the entrance had that in mind.

But there is no doubt that Kevin Costner and Modern West are an outstanding band.

The seven-piece act has a Southwestern-flavored Americana sound, and the players are all solid pros. Costner’s voice is a little thin and wooden, but it only has to occupy a range in the band’s layered sound — which, by the way, is beautifully embellished by mandolin, violin and steel guitar.

Costner was genuinely appreciative of the audience, and explained each song. The music tour, he said, allows him to actually meet the people in the cities he visits, unlike movie-making.

One highlight was “Famous for Killing Each Other,” a plaintive and somber song Costner wrote for the 2012 miniseries “Hatfields and McCoys,” in which he starred.

He closed the 90-minute concert with an encore of Bob Dylan’s “Tambourine Man,” but hung around for several minutes afterward to shake hands from the stage.

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