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MKE Music Premiere: Let’s get small with Ladybird’s ‘Short King Shuffle’

Every week, Milwaukee Music Premiere connects the city’s artists with our listening audience. If you’re an artist with a track you’d like us to debut exclusively on Radio Milwaukee, head over to our Music Submission page to learn how.

When a musician writes a song called “Short King Shuffle,” I have to imagine the first sounds they hear in their head are not gentle acoustic guitar and Elliott Smith-style cooing vocals. Hit the play button on this track from local alt-country outfit Ladybird, and you’ll find a complete lack of both.

This tune off the band’s impending debut full-length album is a rocking, stomping, self-aware, full-on embrace of one’s shortcomings (no pun intended) designed to be enjoyed with the volume at 11 … maybe 12.

Work your way through the song, and it’s hard to picture a group of musicians stoically laying it down in a studio. The blasts of electric guitar, frenetic drumming and wry lead vocals demand hot stage lights overhead and a whoopin’, hollerin’ audience with beer in hand and maybe a few peanut shells underfoot. In other words, a county (or alt-country) scene for a song that appreciates those traditions.

“Country music has a long history of humor and satire,” the band’s Pete McDermott explained to us. “We wanted to make a country rock ‘n’ roll song along those lines, and I had plenty of content to choose from being a completely average adult male height of 5' 6.5".

“‘Short King Shuffle’ is an empowering anthem for all those who have to get on their tip-toes to hug a friend, those who were picked last in pickup basketball or those who need a step ladder to get into their friend's new Chevy Silverado. But it's also a story of love and unexpected heartbreak.”

McDermott added that the self-deprecating John Prine was a major source of inspiration for this one (and several others McDermott has penned), and putting it in the hands of “this new, loud band I love so much” yielded some darn good results.

You can hear what they came up with by heading to the top of the page and using either the audio player or YouTube embed of the video for “Short King Shuffle” (also getting its premiere right here). If you’re more of an “over the airwaves” person, the song will play on 88Nine today at 6:30 and 10:30 a.m.; and 2:30, 6:30 and 9:30 p.m.

A little further down the road, the track will occupy the eighth slot on Ladybird’s debut album, Amy Come on Home, available for pre-order right now ahead of its May 17 release. They’ll celebrate the new project with a pair of shows June 1 at Cactus Club: an early performance at 5 p.m. with a special guest to be announced soon and a record-release shindig at 8:30 p.m. with Joseph Huber and Maximiano.