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New Hampshire’s Shana Stack Band Wins Country Recognition

A New Hampshire band with an Upper Valley connection made a name for itself recently, springing into country music’s limelight with three national music awards.

The Shana Stack Band, based out of Keene, was recently awarded Country Band of the Year, the Fan’s Choice Award, and nominated for Album of the Year by the Independent Country Music Association (ICoMA), based out of Nashville, Tenn.

The band includes five New Hampshirites, ranging in age from the early 30s to nearly 60: lead vocalist Shana Stack, Keene; rhythm guitarist and songwriter Ed Leavitt, Claremont; lead guitar and mandolin, John Sanchez, Grantham; drummer Kurt Ekstrom, Chichester; and bass guitarist Kevin Miller, Rindge.

When the winners were announced July 1, the Shana Stack Band had garnered more than 28,000 votes for the Fans Choice Award. “We were one of the few acts that received votes in the thousands,” said Leavitt. “We were really shocked and surprised and humbled by that.”

The band ran a daily Facebook campaign, sent out regular emails to fans and asked concert-goers to vote at every venue they played.

The Country Band of the Year award was selected by ICoMA and other country music professionals. “It was a stringent recommendation process,” recalled Leavitt. “I remember there were pages and pages of forms.”

The Shana Stack Band formed three years ago, and after starting with gigs around the Keene area, the group gained popularity quickly, moving south to perform around Massachusetts.

The band released its third album, Every Now and Then, in June, featuring all original music.

In some respects, the band is an unlikely amalgam of disparate musical backgrounds. The group’s website cites many years of music experience for the members, though in very different contexts. Leavitt, who learned to play the guitar at age 9, grew up on classic country. Ekstrom’s background is rock and roll, and Miller played in a Grateful Dead tribute band for years.

Leavitt, a member of the National Songwriters Association International, writes the lyrics and basic melodies for the band, but each member crafts his own melodies. The variety of backgrounds, however, makes the band what it is, Leavitt said. “This group is really cohesive together. I think that’s the whole trick of it. We can mesh their talents together and come up with something great.”

Leavitt characterized the band’s music as “modern, but mixed with a tinge of rock and roll” and compares their songs to the likes of Little Big Town and Dierks Bentley.

The band booked 20 nights in July, traveling around the Northeast and beyond. As a result of the award, Leavitt said, they can choose a song off their new album to be released at 6,500 radio stations across the country. They’ll open for Rascal Flatts on Aug. 2 at Meadowbrook in Gilford, N.H., and plan to play at Tupelo Music Hall in White River Junction at the end of September.

“It’s a long schedule,” said Leavitt, who also works at Dartmouth as executive assistant to the Associate Dean of the College. “But music’s been a passion of mine for many years. I love it.”