The second Shaw Blades album, which includes cover versions of 11 of Tommy and Jack’s favorite songs of the rock era, was released on March 6, 2007.

by Mike Mettler

Influence, the second album-length collaboration between Tommy Shaw and Jack Blades outside of Damn Yankees, was released 10 years ago today via the VH1 Classic Records label on March 6, 2007.

The album included heartfelt and quite harmonic acoustic-oriented covers of 11 songs of the rock era that influenced the songwriting duo also known in the liner notes as the Neverleave Brothers, including Seals and Crofts’ “Summer Breeze,” Yes’ “Your Move,” The Mamas and The Papas’ “California Dreamin’,” and Buffalo Springfield’s “For What It’s Worth.” A bonus track made available only on the Japanese import version of the album from King Records, Badfinger’s “No Matter What,” brought the song total to an even dozen.

A brief tour in the trio format followed in the spring and fall of 2007, including a stop at The Howard Stern Show in New York on October 24, 2007, where the boys played Simon & Garfunkel’s “The Sound of Silence,” the aforementioned “Summer Breeze,” and “When I See Beth Smiling,” a song that was written in tribute to Stern’s wife.

Oh, I mentioned the trio format in the above sentence, didn’t I? Said trio included a new onstage foil for Tommy and Jack — namely, guitarist/vocalist Will Evankovich, who would soon become one of Tommy and Styx’s favored collaborators. Will continues to work with the man and the band to this day, and, as reported here last week, he most recently joined Tommy onstage for an acoustic performance of “Blue Collar Man” at the 9th annual T.J. Martell Foundation Nashville Honors Gala event at the Omni Hotel in Nashville on February 27.

For his part, Tommy loved working with Jack again on Influence, and he was especially appreciative of the vibe he found collaborating with Will, his new partner both onstage and in the studio. “Will Evankovich is a man of many hats — guitar player, songwriter, singer, performer, producer, arranger,” observes Tommy. “When he became the third guy in Shaw Blades, he did an incredible job just jumping right in, and he instantly got the feel for what we were doing. He’s just one of those guys — and he’s a great hang, too.” (Your Styxologist can most assuredly confirm that latter point firsthand.)

Will was initially approached by Jack following Mr. Big singer Eric Martin’s suggestion to the Night Ranger bassist/vocalist to go check out Will’s band at the time, American Drag, live. Jack immediately liked what he saw in the band’s performance, and he asked Will to come to his ranch in Sonoma County, California, to see if the two could work together. Will later discovered this move was actually a “secret audition” for him to join the Shaw Blades Influence project, already in progress.

The first two songs the pair played together at the ranch were “Summer Breeze” and “Your Move,” and the game was clearly underfoot. “We started jamming on all these things really fast,” Will recalls. “Jack wanted to see how fast I could play and sing and keep up with him during all of it. I had no idea what he was doing; I just thought we were singing songs.”

Then came the kicker. “At the end of it, Jack stood up, looked at me, and said, ‘How would you feel about playing in an acoustic trio with Tommy Shaw and myself?’ I’m like, ‘Uh, let me think about that,’” Will says with a laugh. “I was so blown away — I had no idea!” (Incidentally, we’ll be exploring more of Will’s connections with the Styx universe in an extensive Q&A with the man here in the News section in the coming days, so stay tuned for that!)

During an interview we conducted in 2015, Jack Blades was quite enthusiastic in recalling those fine Influence days: “I really loved working with Tommy and Will on the Influence album and tour!” I also asked Jack what he would say to the possibility of doing Influence II. “Would I do another covers album with them? If we could ever find the time to fit it into our busy schedules, absolutely!”

Needless to say, if an Influence sequel ever comes to pass, you’ll hear about it first right here on Styxworld! I’ve seen all good people turn their heads each day, so satisfied I’m on my way…