Yo, Nellie!

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

It's about time Bob Starker got back in the spotlight.

We're never quite sure how to write about people who are part of our extended media family. And as the husband of Assistant Editor Melissa Starker, longtime Columbus music staple Bob Starker certainly qualifies as Alive kin.

But Starker is so firmly entrenched in the rock scene - and his work so widely appreciated - that overlooking his big bash this weekend would be downright criminal.

So overlook it we will not.

Whoa Nellie!, the ultimate bar band Starker has fronted for several years, is celebrating the release of its first album, Showed Up Anyway, with a show Friday at The Summit. Besides a rollicking set from the headliners, the evening promises appearances from Philly combo The Snake Oilers, local cacophonous couple Dave and Melanie Holm and recently honored Alive Band to Watch The Main Street Gospel.

Showed Up Anyway is the first set of Starker's songs to emerge since his days in The Sovines, the seminal country-rock crew that won rave reviews in the honky-tonks of the Midwest in the late '90s and early this decade.

The Sovines dissolved after five albums and countless gigs, and since then Starker has functioned mostly as a sideman, lending his formidable saxophone skills to numerous groups.

He regularly stands in with down-and-dirty rockers like The True Moves and The Main Street Gospel, bands smack in the middle of his wheelhouse. He also isn't afraid to dip his toe into weirder waters - he was part of the horn section for the mind-bending Blueprint-Brainbow collaboration last year, and he's been known to sit in with The Ukulele Man.

This first Whoa Nellie! disc is a fine reminder that Starker's chops are just as potent when he steps to center stage and straps on a guitar. Rockers like "Hoof In Mouth" and "Die Tryin'" are just the sort of tracks to rouse you up off your barstool, while the likes of "Tear Jerk" will have you planted back on that seat crying in your beer.

There are still heavy doses of the kickin' country and early-era rock 'n' roll that defined The Sovines, but Showed Up Anyway also posits Starker as a kindred spirit with '80s slacker icon Paul Westerberg - a fitting comparison considering Nellie!'s motto: "Swagger, stumble, sway."

What: Whoa Nellie! CD release show

When: Friday, Jan. 23

Where: The Summit, Campus

Web: myspace.com/bobraystarker