Kristi Jean grew up riding shotgun in a pickup truck driving the small-town roads of Howe, Texas with the AM radio tuned to traditional country music. She absorbed the sounds of her mother and father’s music and the rural influences that surrounded her. An independent spirit, Kristi tried to reject her country roots and ventured towards rock n’ roll, musical theatre, and even a bit of opera. She paid her way through college belting rock-n-roll tunes in bars, honky-tonks, bowling alleys and dancehalls across the mid-west, trying desperately to hide her Texas twang and accent. Yet, her voice couldn’t escape those dusty back roads and the music from the AM radio of her childhood. She finally returned to those roots when she starred as Patsy Cline in a theatre production of the musical “Always…Patsy Cline.” Following that experience, Kristi said “I really came to appreciate how Patsy Cline, and other women of the 1950’s who were rooted in traditional country, wanted to push the boundaries into the rebellious and dynamic music of rockabilly and early rock and roll.” There is certainly a grit and growl in those early rockabilly tunes, but there is also a bit of that country tradition that Kristi couldn’t shake from her voice. Lea guitarist Steve Branstetter says “we often tell Kristi that her ‘Texas’ is showing in those vocal swoops and phrasings…and when she can’t help but say “y’all” or “I’m fixin’ to..” It’s that “Texas” in Kristi’s voice, however, that gives the band its authenticity and character. One reviewer noted that “Kristi sings like Patsy is reincarnated in her.” It’s a complement Kristi shies away from “nobody sounds like Patsy,” she says “but of course, if you’re a girl singer doing this music, Patsy’s influence can’t help but come out!” Comparisons aside, one fan summarized Kristi’s singing this way: “that girl can flat out sing her ass off…”
Lead guitarist Steve Branstetter grew up in Boulder, Colorado listening to his father’s Johnny Cash, Buck Owens, Chet Atkins, and Doc Watson vinyl records. Steve recalls the Saturday night tradition of the family gathering around the TV to watch “Hee Haw”, where he first saw many of those singers he was listening to on record. While his friends were blasting Van Halen and AC/DC, Steve was wearing out an old 1950’s compilation album with Elvis’ “Hound Dog,” Eddie Cochran’s “Twenty-Flight Rock” and Gene Vincent’s “Bee-Bop-A-Lula.” His love affair with the guitar started in earnest with after yearning (in vain) for the orange Gretsch 6120 Duane Eddy was holding on the cover of his “Have Twangy Guitar will Travel” album (he ended up with an early 1960’s “Alamo Fury” guitar instead). Since then, Steve has sought to emulate his honky-tonk and rockabilly heroes through his dedication to the traditional style and tone of those twanging guitars. Bringing elements of jump blues, western swing, and a repertoire of what he describes as “stolen licks” from Don Rich (Buck Owens), Cliff Gallup (Gene Vincent), and Scotty Moore (Elvis), Steve adds an enthusiast’s vibe to Rodeo Serenade’s authentic feel.