"I've sung every style of music, but when I met Kit, he is a huge country music buff." Shepherd said. "Together, we decided we would start a band...I didn't grow up listening to country music. It just cuts in a way other way other music doesn't. I love it. It's great for me. I've been searching for a way to express my singing for along time."
Shepherd's influences include Bonnie Raitt, Dwight Yoakam, Jim Lauderdale, Junior Brown and Heather Myles, a California artist whom Shepherd may most closely resemble.
"Of course, you listen to Patsy Cline," she said. "I love her voice. I love her music. Nobody is ever going to sound like her. You can maybe pick up some of the feeling, the lonesome quality, but there's never going to be a sound like that again."
Dennis played a short stint with The Lyres, local punk legends from the 1970's, Robin Right, a well-known New England country performer, and Wheelers & Dealers, for whom he still plays occasionally.
Shepherd and Dennis had started writing together about two or three years, laying the groundwork for what would eventually become their current band. They hooked up with Lipman about two years ago. Sherman, who remains a member of Wheelers & Dealers, was drafted into Nola et al via connections.
Yates may have the most experience, playing with a variety of acts from the area including the late Dick Curless, John Lincoln Wright, The Estes Boys and Tina Welch. Dennis knew him from playing together in Blue Heaven. "We weren't quite sure if he'd if he'd be interested," Dennis said.Nola Rose & The Thorns' first gig was in May 1994, a benefit for Michael Barrett, who ran for the Democratic nomination for governor. The band takes no blame for Barrett's failure.
More dates followed, and acclaim was quick. Lipman and Dennis won the songwriters award last year at the Massachusetts Country Music Awards Association for "Carolina," a song on the tape. The pair along with Shepherd took first place runner up for the songwriters award for "Thought I Heard an Angel." The band received nominations for most promising group of the year and Shepherd for most promising female vocalist.
While doubtlessly happy to get the award, Dennis said it was a bit of a double-edged sword since he questioned how many people even heard the song. "Country music in Boston seems a tougher sell," he said. "I don't know if it's because Boston is more trend conscious." He said the scene was geared towards rock.
"It's just not freewheeling enough,"he said of country.
In this fall's version of the association's awards, nominations were received for most promising new group and three-part harmony group. Shepherd is up for promising new female artist, and Yates for most promising new male artist.
Now the emphasis is on the CD at hand. "I can't wait to get the CD done, " Shepherd said. "That's our biggest goal."
Her husband has his hopes pinned on the disc. "I guess I'm still chasing the dream," Dennis said.