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Local Band, Regional Appeal
And SHSU is known for...country music?
Bearkats have been singing the tunes of Texas Country, the newest music genre to two-step the state, with good reason. That's because some of SHSU's own are singing as part of one of East Texas' hottest bands--Riverwest.
Riverwest formed during the spring of 2000, when Kale Murray, a senior at SHSU and Huntsville High School graduate, met up with former college classmate John Slaughter.
"We knew each other at SHSU, but never knew the other was a musician," explained Murray. Slaughter is a sophomore agricultural business major and former Huntsville High School graduate as well. With Murray on bass guitar and Slaughter on fiddle, the two began playing under the name Riverwest.
While two's a crowd, it's hardly enough for a country band. The two soon enlisted the musical talents of Murray's friend Joe Penly. Penly and Murray had once played together in Dakota Rose, a band that traveled the eastern and central United States. Penly plays lead guitar. David Collins, a 1998 SHSU graduate and former undergraduate admissions recruiter for the university, was added to sing and play acoustic guitar, and Ryan Ogrodowicz (Ryan O. for short) rounded out the band on the drums. Ogrodowicz is a junior and member of the Jazz Ensemble and Wind Ensemble at SHSU.
"My love of Texas and belief in our culture and way of life was the catalyst for Riverwest," explained Murray.
The band writes its own material and has performed all across the state.
"Watching people have a good time in response to something you created," explained Murray, "is my favorite part of performing."
With song titles such as Ragged Old Boots, A Cowboy's Wife, and Fish Spurs, the music of Riverwest embodies the essence of true Texas Country. Their most popular song is Texas Remedy. Their first album bears this title.
'It's a good feeling to hear people sing your songs," explained Slaughter.
These Bearkats even weave some of their college experiences into their lyrics. In I Love Comin' Here, David Collins writes,
Riverwest will perform for Huntsvillians as part of the 11 a.m.-5 p.m. entertainment line-up for Fair on the Square, Saturday Oct. 6. in downtown Huntsville. Admission is free for this outdoor event.
The band is also part of the line-up for the 2nd Annual Texas Outlaw Music Festival, slated for Oct. 27 at the Walker County Fairgrounds. Texas County greats like Roger Creager, Gary P. Nunn, Canadian Ragweed, Eleven Hundred Springs, Dub Miller, and others are also scheduled to perform.
"This is one of our biggest gigs," explained Slaughter.
They have only one album, which they originally made "just to give friends something good to listen to." After Christmas, however, Riverwest will release a new album featuring all new songs, to be distributed on the airwaves. With a little marketing, they hope to see their music grow in popularity.
These Bearkats have done a commendable job balancing the roles of school, family, and music. Murray, a non-traditional student, returned to SHSU in the 1997 after realizing the value of a college education. Being a non-traditional student, Murray said, "I feel like I have a different perspective on school. I came with fresh ideas and was ready to go!"
However, it seems that their common love for music is what keeps these guys going.
"The song is all that matters," explained Murray. "It doesn't have to be fancy, it just has to make a statement."
Find out more information about the Texas Outlaw Music Festival.
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