9:30 Club presents at U Street Music Hall - Early Show
The Whiskey Gentry, Andrew Rohlk
1115 U Street NW
Washington, DC, 20009
Butch Walker: musician, rocker, Georgia boy. Composer of dozens of songs that stick in your head; Choruses you want to sing (or shout) along to; Purveyor of authentic stories of exploits and predicaments and romance that are filled with optimism; Architect of albums that have few boundaries, embracing hard rock and ballads, pop rock, Americana and singer-songwriter. Or, as Butch says, “I think it’s all just rock & roll.”
Stay Gold is Butch’s 8th album. The last one, 2015’s Ryan Adams’ produced Afraid Of Ghosts, was a cathartic record that dealt with a devastating personal experience, the passing of his father. This one’s a celebration. In Butch’s words, “After coming out of the AOG album cycle and tour where, at the risk of sounding ridiculous, I spent a lot of time on stage bawling my eyes out, I felt a very calm sense of peace. Like I’d done what I needed to do to get it outta my system. Every song that came after that was almost a nostalgic, celebratory ... for lack of a better word - “jam.” And the songs just kept coming to me (snaps fingers three times), which was good cos that’s not always the case!”
You’ll find that the stories on Stay Gold are very well fleshed out, something Butch credits to “growing up on some of those dudes - Elton John and the (Bernie) Taupin lyrics, Springsteen and Joel. I love that stuff. I had a buddy, Matt Marston, who was actually dating my sister back in the early 90s. He was a songwriter and ended up being a pretty big unsung influence on me because – well, there’s no escaping the fact that I had a hair metal band in the late 80s / early 90s and it was a lot of fun but it wasn’t always very broad, lyrically. I certainly listened to people whose words blew my mind, like Elvis Costello, Tom Waits and others, but I couldn’t cop it. I didn’t even understand how to go about it. And this guy, Matt, opened my mind. He could paint these vivid pictures and stories … so, I asked him how he did it. He told me, ‘I just kind of pay attention to my surroundings, sitting on the subway or the bus and I see a guy over in the corner reading the paper, he’s maybe like fifty-five-years-old, sixty-years--old, and I’m wondering what his story is.’ For some reason, the light bulb went off in my head. I gotta give it to that guy, Matt, for helping me figure it out.” That long ago ’eureka moment’ still informs Butch’s writing and the material on Stay Gold is clearly his most articulate to date. When asked if the stories are real or imagined, he replies, “All the songs are half true.”
The Whiskey Gentry
Amongst many attempts to describe The Whiskey Gentry, perhaps the best take was from Paste Magazine who called them a “toe-tapping, steamrolling kind of band, its fingers picking deep into fields of bluegrass…with a punk-inspired kick drum.” The Whiskey Gentry’s catchy tunes reel in listeners spanning from music novices to mainstream audiences, while their musical mastery garners the professional praise and respect of those with the most sophisticated of musical palates. Two albums in, both co-produced by John Keane (R.E.M., Uncle Tupelo), they recently gained official recognition as a finalist in the Chris Austin Songwriting Competition held at MerleFest. From local haunts to the Nashville music industry’s elite, the band’s burgeoning followers and supporters have quite literally set the stage for nationwide venues and air waves.
Initially a quintet formed by husband and wife duo Lauren Staley and Jason Morrow, the band’s debut album in 2011 Please Make Welcome became a critically-acclaimed success, quickly launching the Atlanta-based band into markets from Tampa to NYC, and at festivals priding themselves as the first to showcase the next best thing. They have since expanded on both a physical and geographic level, becoming a septet comprised of Chesley Lowe on banjo, Sammy Griffin on bass, Price Cannon on drums, Michael Smith on mandolin, and Rurik Nunan on fiddle.
Their most recent album Holly Grove is another leap in the band’s ongoing evolution on a musical and social scale. In early 2013, The Whiskey Gentry rallied fans to raise funds for studio sessions through a Kickstarter campaign, which ultimately far surpassed their goals and expectations. Local artists and established pros alike pitched in as well, creating a true ensemble effort on songs such as a duet with Butch Walker on “One Night in New York,” and cameos throughout the album by Les Hall, the Dappled Grays, and Radiolucent. Mastered by Glenn Schick (Indigo Girls, Drive-By Truckers), Holly Grove infuses elements of country, bluegrass, folk, rock, and punk with a mix of poppy and poignant lyrics, fiery and heartfelt vocals, traditional and avant-garde sound, honesty, edginess, and entertainment all around.
Luring listeners in, capturing their ears, hearts, and minds, and blazing new trails in Americana music and beyond, The Whiskey Gentry is only just warming its heels. Hunter S. Thompson wrote that “the whiskey gentry” was “a pretentious mix of booze, failed dreams, and a terminal identity crisis.” Though they are never lacking offers from fans for a shot of whiskey, their dreams are becoming reality, their identity is distinct, their future on a steady crescendo.