Whiskey Myers: Whiskey Myers
Fans have anticipated the release of Whiskey Myers self-titled album with the same fervor that John Jeffers has as he raises his fist at every show to give the defiant one finger salute, exclaiming, “BITCH!” toward today’s popular country music. In fact, this whole album is a rally call that synthesizes their rock, blues, and country influences in a way that only they can. The in-your-face sound will energize current fans and capture a whole throng of new ones. The collection of talented artists writing, singing, and playing is outstanding. The way this album rolls between all styles seamlessly shows that they are not a band to be put in anyone’s one-genre box. Lead singer, Cody Cannon, emphasized that point when he said, “Everybody wants you to pick a genre, but we did this our whole career. We like it all, so we’re gonna do it all. We’re better than we were at 20 years old — you try to hone your skills and get better, write better, play better. This is just how it came naturally, and it works better that way.”
Recorded in just eighteen days at Sonic Ranch Studio in El Paso, Texas, the band took on the triple threat roles as writers, performers, and producers of the album. While they have worked with major names before, like the exceptionally talented David Cobb to produce their previous albums, it was time for them to take the helm as they experimented with sounds, lyrics, and rhythms that made their songs really feel like them and represent who they are today. With Cannon and Jeffers as the primary songwriters, they honed in on the craft of developing ideas as a team should. With the entire band contributing feedback and making adjustments along the way until they were satisfied that each song, and the entire album embodied their vision from start to finish. Supported further by singer/songwriters Ray Wylie Hubbard, Brent Cobb, Adam Hood, Tennessee Jet, Aaron Raitiere, Mark Stephen Jones and Dave Kennedy, this fifth studio album is an authentic reflection of their growth over the years, in subject matter and tone. Guest musicians on Whiskey Myers include Eddie Long of the Bama Band on steel guitar, Bennett Brown of Shane Smith and the Saints, and the McCrary Sisters. Their on-going cooperation with these great artists produced songs that take the audience from each end of the emotional spectrum, just like their live shows do. From hard driving rock n’ roll that gets your heart beating and your pulse pounding, to a more laid-back state from the bluesy vibes, Whiskey Myers has given us a superior album and have released it on Wiggy Thump Records, their own label. When approaching their songs, and ultimately the secret of their creative success, Jeffers states that, “There’s never a plan or the sense that we need to make a song sound a certain way. A country song could end up a rocker or the other way around — it’s extremely organic, and that’s always been us as a band.”
Pushing play on the album, the first song to blast out of Cody Cannon’s lyrical arsenal is “Die Rockin’,” written alongside Texas music icon, Ray Wylie Hubbard, who is quoted at the beginning of the official video saying, “You guys were too young to invent rock n roll, but you own it now.” The song starts with a catchy melodic story about humble beginnings, and shoots right to the top of Cannon’s vocal range when he and the band profess, they will Die Rockin’ like those before them who laid the path for rock n’ roll. With the gritty, grinding guitars and percussive claps from the band, accompanied by the amazing Nashville gospel quartet, the McCrary Sisters, this has been sung loudly at every live show on their international Die Rockin’ Tour. Beverly, Deborah, Regina and Alfreda McCrary have also applied their powerful harmonies while supporting notable acts including Bob Dylan, Sheryl Crow, and Stevie Wonder. Adding the McCrary Sisters, who have their own incredibly successful, life-long music careers, was a brilliant concept, providing tremendous dimension and passion to this song.
From the beginning guitar riffs and lyrics, “Gasoline” is a hard rocking populist anthem for those who just keep going in a world that keeps throwing shit at them. It’s a commentary on life where you want to work, you work hard, but don’t have a lot to show for it because the industries are closing down and small towns are having a hard time staying alive. To convey this, songwriter Cannon excruciatingly screams, “Times get harder give me a fire starter//Drench myself in holy water//Spiritual things the heartland bleeds//I need a Bible a gun and gasoline,” pointing out how we as a society insulate ourselves from harsh realities. Later he touches on the worsening opioid epidemic while pointing out sarcastically how much money we’re spending on weapons of war.
Saying anything about “Bitch” beyond it being a complete banger is almost unnecessary. From the first electric riff to Jeffers shouting, “BITCH!” into the microphone, this is a stand up, raise your fist, and join along jam that is incredible to experience live along with fans of the band and doing just that. Jeffers’ scorching solos are supported by Cannon and Cody Tate’s guitars. Jeffers steps out in front with vocals that tell the world that they are coming for the basic music that is force fed on the radio listeners of today. This in-your-face calling out of the music industry got a tremendous amount of attention the first time it was performed live, and videos of Jeffers singing it flooded Youtube, Twitter, and Facebook fan groups across genres, and it hasn’t let up since. It was the message that so many music lovers felt, and Jeffers pours all of that emotion into this song. Triple guitars are joined by Jamey Gleaves’ rhythmic bassline and Jeff Hogg’s pounding snare drum. Jeffers makes his guitar talk and Tony Kent punctuates it all with his cowbell as the crowd yells back, “I'm tired of the radio//Same old lyrics, smoke show//You're so country we all know//Tailgates and back roads//Same shit, different day//Ain't nothin' ever gonna change//Long as you know that you are still just a BITCH in my book!” This is the same attitude that Whiskey Myers has cut their teeth on previously. They’re going to say what they have to say, and they don’t care what anyone else thinks about it.
After a demanding tour of sold out shows in Europe, Jeffers and virtuoso one-man roadshow, Tennessee Jet, wrote “Bury My Bones” to reflect life on the road. They address the excitement of playing to fans nationwide and overseas, sharing their electric and high energy on stage. In describing the experience Jeffers quips that they go so hard, if he died out on the road, he was going to need someone to carry him home. Displaying the previously mentioned diversity of musical styles, Tate leads into the song with a mandolin intro before the guitars and pick up to build the more serious bluesy theme of the song. Also included in the background is the masterful fiddle work from Bennett Brown of Shane Smith and the Saints. It’s all so tangible that you can feel that bit of heartbreak when Cannon sings, “Yeah, if I die young, write my mother//Tell her that I love her, but my soul's gone home//And take me back to Anderson County//Drive real slow and take the long way home.”
Texas country singer-songwriter Adam Hood teamed with Cannon to write “Rolling Stone,” a hopeful tale of the challenges of maintaining a long-distance relationship while touring. Expertly fused sounds of country, blues, and rock serve as a backdrop for the torment arising between a couple torn by the calling of a career that has one partner constantly travelling away from the other. Cannon’s harmonica hums along throughout the song, while Eddie Long lays down a clean foundation of his acclaimed steel guitar to deliver the desired groove. As the song progresses, the traveler begins to question the notion that the cost of the career is worth it, seeing the greater value in his loved ones. “There ain’t nothing left for me out on these highways that I roam//If all I’m doing is leaving you crying alone//I’m coming home ’Cause I’m all yours baby// I ain’t no rolling stone.” It’s an ironic twist of sorts as the song rejects the title of rolling stone, considering the band has been so heavily influenced by UK rock n’ roll legends, The Rolling Stones, and recently opened for them on tour at Soldier Field in Chicago. This insight into the band reveals their depth and character, dispensing with absolute perspectives, and songs like this are a sobering reminder of the sacrifices artists make in sharing their music with us.
“Little More Money” shares the struggles and perspectives a young man, trapped in a cycle of poverty, and looking to escape the chains of addiction, crime, and hopelessness. He knows enough that he needs to leave to move on, but feels rooted to the only home he knows. The first verse shares his awareness of the wrong in selling his grandmother’s prescription medicine on the streets as he recalls poor examples set for him by his father. The trailing chorus repeats his understanding of this, and his dreams of moving on, “But I wish I could roll the stone//A little more money, and I’ll be gone.” Authored by Cannon, this song carries a southern rock/country sound as it addresses similar themes to those mentioned in “Gasoline,” perhaps inspired by the specific setting here for the song in Alabama. The brilliance here is how the lyrics capture the sheer desperation in the young man’s fight. It’s so powerful that it causes him to question his worth, faith, and whether it’s even possible to accomplish his escape. He hasn’t lost hope, but his doubts in everything are mounting as life goes on.
The blues rocking “Hammer” follows a pair of parallel metaphors as it explores the ages old exchange of chores for loving within a relationship. Jeffers and Tate dueling blues guitars and Cannon’s crying harmonica lament the mundane grind of work, the pain of aging, a broken boat, the scarcity of fish, and the fix-it list waiting at home, while offering the allure of love at the end of the day. The McCrary sisters return with soulful backing vocals, painting the picture even clearer, and reinforcing the success of the partnership, and both party’s contentedness in it. Their four voices take over the song as it closes out, nearly making it their own: “Working on love till the break of dawn// Daddy swings the hammer//To the rhythm of an old song.” This may not be a popular theme to explore in 2019 as many women’s roles have long evolved from homemakers into providers. The reality is that many relationships today still follow the more traditional roles mentioned in “Hammer,” and Whiskey Myers isn’t really concerned about popular perceptions. They’re telling their own stories from their own perspectives, and however challenging that may be for some to accept, it’s refreshing to address another lifestyle and have it represented as important.
There are fourteen songs here on Whiskey Myers, which results in nearly sixty minutes of music on two vinyl records. We’ve only addressed seven of them in this review, but the deeper you dig into it, the better it gets. It’s one of those records you can’t help listening to all the way through, something that many aspire to, but fail to deliver. The camaraderie and absence of ego in this band is marked by the way they approach their songwriting, singing, and recording. One member might compose a piece, but decide that another member has the right voice to match the song. This is indicative of the collaborative recording process. While the album’s songwriting credits are chiefly attributed to Cannon and Jeffers, the entire band weighs in during recording as to what sounds just right. For example, “Bad Weather” was initially written by Jeffers for Cannon to sing, but after both gave lead vocals a go in the studio the band ultimately handed the role to Cody Tate, determining that he was the right match for the song. This process is so successful for them in part because of the chemistry and consistency Whiskey Myers has assembled and maintained over the past dozen years. In addition to being talented musicians, these guys are best friends, capable of taking and receiving their own critical analysis in the search for perfection. The synergy comes through in the music they write and record in the studio, but also is likewise evident in their live performances.
Cody Cannon - Lead Vocals, Rhythm Guitar, Harmonica
John Jeffers - Lead Guitar, Background Vocals
Cody Tate - Lead Guitar, Mandolin, Background Vocals
Jamey Gleaves - Bass Guitar
Jeff Hogg - Drums
Tony Kent – Percussion, Keyboards
Eddie Long - Steel Guitar
Bennett Brown - Fiddle
Sean Giddings - Organ
Beverly Ann McCrary – Background Vocals
Deborah Dianne McCrary – Background Vocals
Regina Avonette McCrary – Background Vocals
Alfreda Antionette McCrary – Background Vocals
Tony Martinez – Background Vocals
Kristen Rogers –Background Vocals
Produced collaboratively by Whiskey Myers
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Cover Photo and Social Media Sharing Photo:
Khris Poage https://www.instagram.com/khrispoage/
Melissa Payne https://www.instagram.com/melissapaynephotography/