DENHAM SPRINGS -- With a career in radio spanning decades, Scott Innes knows a talent when he sees one — or more precisely, when he hears one.
He remembers the first time he heard Clifton Brown and the Rusty Bucket Band, and even then, he knew what he was listening to.
“Clifton and his band play some of the best traditional country you’ll ever hear,” Innes said. “They’re the real deal. Just a true talent.”
This weekend, people can see — and more importantly hear — “the real deal” for themselves.
Clifton Brown and the Rusty Bucket band, a local six-piece band that specializes in old-school country, will be part of a slew of music acts that’ll take the stage when the Cajun Country Jam hits Denham Springs on Saturday, May 4.
The free all-day music festival will feature a full slate of local and national performers in the Antique Village, headlined by Grammy award-winning group Shenandoah. Other acts include Jamie O’Neal, Andy Griggs, Hal Bruni, Sara Collins, Sheriff Bud Torres, and James Linden Hogg.
Clifton Brown and the Rusty Bucket Band, comprised of performers from Livingston and Tangipahoa parishes, will play their set on the stage at Train Station Park, where music begins at 11 a.m.
For lovers of country music from the 1980s and 1990s, Innes said this is the band for you.
“They have that great old country sound,” Innes said. “It’s hard to find bands like that nowadays.”
The Rusty Bucket Band has been together for the last four years, jamming at festivals in front of big crowds, at restaurants for more intimate experiences, or just about any other place where people crave live music.
The band is made of lead singer Clifton Brown, guitar player Greg Manchester, bass player Chris Smith, drummer Paul Golmon, pedal steel guitar player Danny Harrell, and vocalist Brenda Harrell.
And boy, do they love that old-school country.
When the musicians perform covers, they veer away from modern country music — “bro country” as Brown called it — and stick with the classic sounds of icons such as George Strait, Garth Brooks, Mark Chesnutt, Tracy Byrd, and Clay Walker, among others.
To Brown, today’s country music is “overproduced” — much different than the natural, pure sounds of country music during its heyday when it became the country’s most popular genre.
“People tell me that I’m stuck in the 90s, but my response is, ‘Well, we should do play a lot,’” Brown said with a laugh. “And that’s because people love the real country sound we have. Everywhere we go people tell us, ‘This is what country music used to sound like.’”
So how often do y’all play?
The question brought another chuckle out of Brown, who needed a minute to get it figured out.
“This year, we’ve got about 40 shows already booked for 2019,” he said back in March. “And we’re still booking.”
One of those who love the traditional country sounds of the band is Rusty Howard, founder of Certified in Denham Springs, an alarm company that has served the security needs of businesses and families in Baton Rouge and surrounding communities since 1991.
Brown said he first met Howard about 15 years ago when he worked with the Denham Springs Police Department, and the two have kept close ever since.
Last year, Certified was one of 16 corporate sponsors for the Rusty Bucket Band, with the company’s logo squeezed in among many others.
This year, Howard wanted to change that.
“When I went to talk to Mr. Rusty, he said, ‘I love your music and I think the world of you and your band. I want the whole thing — I want to be the sponsor for you guys,’” Brown recalled.
Howard and Brown inked a two-year deal in February, making Certified the official — and only — sponsor for the Rusty Bucket Band.
With the next two years taken care of, that leaves extra time for Brown and his band to focus on the music, which they spend many long hours rehearsing to make sure it sounds “just right” for those who love traditional country as much as they do.
“We rehearse and learn these songs just like the record because that’s what people want to hear,” Brown said. “They don’t want to hear my version. Who am I? So we try to do it just like the record because the people in the audience remember that song and how it went, and they want it to be just like it was because that’s what they know.”
Brown said “people go crazy” when the band opens a show with Vern Gosdin’s 1988 hit “Set ‘Em Up Joe.” People equally lose it when the band plays a tune from the Merle Haggard or George Jones catalogues.
“Those songs sound a lot like the records because we have the same instruments to cover them,” he said. “People go crazy and say they hadn’t heard those songs in years.”
Along with covers, the band also performs from two albums Brown recorded in Nashville: “Better and Better” in 1999, followed by “Country, Live it, Love It, Breathe It” in 2016.
Brown said his last album has received a ton of airplay in Texas and Florida, as well as overseas. One time, a number he didn’t recognize will popped up on his phone, with the person on the other end speaking in a heavy accent.
“I thought it was my cop buddies making practical jokes, but it ended up being people from England wanting to do radio interviews,” Brown said. “Overseas is kind of going through a 90s country theme right now. We can go across the pond and play four nights a week and make good money. It’s super big right now.
“I’m just hoping it gets that way again over here.”