Jimmie's Chicken Shack to celebrate 'Stereo's' 15th year

A celebration 15 years in the making will bring an Annapolis rock group full circle on Friday night.

Jimmie's Chicken Shack, the eclectic rock group best known for its singles “Do Right” and “High,” will commemorate the anniversary of its second and most recognizable album, “Bring Your Own Stereo,” by playing the record's 13 tracks in order for the first time ever.

For James Davies, the 45-year-old frontman better known as Jimi HaHa, the fact that a Rams Head venue will host the show makes it even more special.

“It means a lot because when we started the band, three of us were working at the original Rams Head [Tavern] in Annapolis,” Davies said last week on the phone from Annapolis. “We'd work until 2 o'clock at night, then we'd get out of work, grab a six-pack, go to the band house and practice and write songs. That's how we wrote our first record.”

Davies and then-bassist Che Colavita Lemon worked in the kitchen while Jim Chaney, then the group's percussionist, waited tables. Those jobs did not last long, thanks to the success of 1997's “Pushing the Salmanilla Envelope,” the band's major-label debut that brought exposure on MTV and alternative-rock radio.

Two years later, after label restructuring placed the band under the Universal Music Group umbrella, Jimmie's Chicken Shack released “Stereo.” “Do Right,” a single that reached No. 12 on Billboard's Alternative Songs chart, bolstered the album.

At the time, “Do Right” seemed like the band's bridge from hard-to-classify rockers to a well-known Top 40 act. Instead, the song merely flirted with the mainstream, and now represents the peak of the group's national popularity.

As is often the case with major labels, Davies says, a poorly chosen follow-up single (“Trash” instead of “Lazy Boy Dash”) and the allure of a promising new act ended “Stereo's” momentum.

“When 'Do Right' was doing really well — it was about to cross over into pop radio, which would have really catapulted us into a different air — they actually pulled the budget so they could put out Sum 41,” Davies said. “It happens. That's a part of the industry.”

After “Stereo,” the band and its label failed to repair the relationship. Davies says the final straw came after he was instructed to recreate old hits and “to write a song like Limp Bizkit.”

Two albums, neither released by a major label, came — 2004's “re.present” and 2008's “Fall on Cue” — but both failed to match the heights of “Stereo.” Still, Davies has no regrets about anything Jimmie's Chicken Shack did or did not achieve.

“I don't waste a lot of energy pining about what could have been,” he said. “As far as I'm concerned, I feel lucky enough to even have done what we were able to do. Some of the best bands I've ever heard in my life were from Baltimore and never got the shot we did. And they deserved it, maybe even more than us.”

Although Friday's concert will likely be filled with nostalgia and joyful reflection — the other three members from the “Stereo” era (Dave “Double B” Dowling, Mike Sipple and Lemon) will join him and the current lineup on stage, Davies said — a new Jimmie's Chicken Shack album could be on the way. Just don't ask Davies for specific details.

“I'm not really big into making plans and setting goals. I'm more like, ‘Just wake up and do stuff and see where it takes you,'” said Davies, who also works as a painter. 

No matter the release date, the next Jimmie's Chicken Shack album will not sound like any of the band's previous records, Davies said. 

“I always liked so many different kinds of music and I never wanted to be pigeonholed like that,” he said. “We had many sounds, and we never pandered to that kind of plan. It might not have been a great business decision, but it was a good creative decision. I can sleep at night going, 'I was true to myself.'”

If you go

Jimmie's Chicken Shack performs Friday at Rams Head Live, 20 Market Place in Power Plant Live, downtown. Pressing Strings, Sweet Leda and Little Bird will also perform. Doors open at 8 p.m. Tickets are $12 in advance, $15 day of. Call 410-244-1131 or go to ramsheadlive.com. 

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