For nearly a decade, there has been an Atlanta based country band, working their butts off to introduce new fans to their music. Bits of bluegrass and honky tonk blend with powerful female vocals to create an addictive production, something ripe for country radio. You may even note similarities to a band like Lady Antebellum, but realize how much more country is infused here. While listening to Shayne Hollinger’s show on 95.9 The Ranch last week, I heard Follow You by The Whiskey Gentry and was so impressed with their sound that I looked them up immediately. How I didn’t know they exist is beyond me, but I want to ensure that you are in the know on this impressive group.
Front woman, Lauren Staley packs the powerful vocal punch you’ll hear through your speakers, alongside her husband, Jason Morrow. The album I heard first is Dead Ringer, which came out this past spring and prompted this writing. It’s an addictive mix of medium to high octane country songs, ripe with banjo, fiddle and twangy electric guitar. There are times where they head over to the rock n’ roll side of things, but it all works so well. Just listening to their songs make you realize how much fun this tight group of friends must be having when they perform over 150 shows across the country per year.
On Dead Ringer there are many songs that focus on the music business side and the love of being a country artist. Tracks like Following You paint the picture of a band and their journey from the small time to the bigger stages out there. We hear of the hardships of low pay, living out of a van and not forgetting your roots of the local open mic nights, something many Texas artists know all too well. Also here, is the maturity of being a role model for upcoming acts hoping to follow in their tracks. In a recent interview with Aaron Watson (posting later this week), he discussed how important that is as a veteran in the country music world. You are setting an example and it’s imperative to show others the values of class, humbleness and good ‘ole fashioned hard work. The music video for this track is a blast to watch as we see the band traveling in different parts of the world, crammed in the van, and out enjoying the different places their career has brought them.
I love the line “We’re all just stupid kids, gettin’ beat up by the biz” which illustrates the risks of jumping into a music career and the tough lessons that go along with it. I say it often: we only see the high points in a success story and are quick to overlook all of the rejection and mistakes along the way.
One thing I have learned with my love for country music and it’s rise to be a popular genre, is how it is now one of the cool things to like. You know, because so many bands are really just making pop so that allows other people to now like it. Lauren and company sings about someone who fits this mold in one of of my favorite down home country songs here, Martha from Marfa. Martha is one of those people out there that is like a chameleon and changes with whatever the next big thing is. Changing her whole look and diving head first into being a country singer is comical, especially seeing how she scoffed at it early-on to an ex-boyfriend. One can even make a connection to how pop singers have climbed aboard the country bandwagon and created a country album to get in while the action is hot. The whole overall sound on this track encompasses that perfect country toe-tapper with Lauren turning up her voice power at all the right times. The banjo and fiddle guide the band along at precisely the right pace and I keep playing this one over and over again.
Since being introduced to the music of Whiskey Gentry, I have not been able to stop listening to Dead Ringer and I suspect they are on the verge of breaking through. They have managed to leave their personal touches throughout their songs with their rise to a touring band and refraining from forgetting their roots. What they have done is channeled with own journey and incorporated their experiences into upbeat honky tonk songs that tell the tale of the music industry and their own lives.
If you pair this alongside Lauren’s wholesome voice and neo-traditional country instrumentals, it makes for a darn good time - something Dead Ringer is packed full of.
Pay special attention to these well executed covers:
Kern River - Merle Haggard
Seven Year Ache - Rosanne Cash
Just a Massachusetts guy supporting Texas and other independent country/Americana artists.
Check out my spotify for good tunes!