Roll up, roll up for some of the best freewheelin’ fun you’ll hear in a country album all year. Despite the fact that the cover of this album features a picture of singer Lauren Staley, The Whiskey Gentry are a full band, featuring her husband Jason Morrow and other talented musicians based in Atlanta, Georgia. Released earlier this year Dead Ringer is exactly the kind of album I needed to hear right now – bringing a little rock and roll spirit to the honky tonk.
This is one of those albums which tells the story of life as a musician but thankfully there’s a huge dose of self-deprecating humour in the lyrics. Starting with a Following You where Staley sings about life on the road and how they endured bad gigs with open mic nights and ‘singer songwriter’ types following them. The band kick up a riot from the start, rocking the place with twang and edge too, which sounds really refreshing.
Rock n Roll Band is kind of ironic really since it’s more bluegrass and country than the title would suggest. It’s so catchy it makes you want to clap, sing and generally dance like no one’s watching. Looking for Trouble and Paris continue with the rockabilly spirit, the latter being stomping enough to wake even the deadest crowd. Dead Ringer goes back to the honky tonk, telling the story of the country music dream. However it kind of falls flat with the line ‘a more famous girl on the radio‘ since we know fine well there ain’t any female country stars even getting on the radio right now. I do like the way this song tells the story of how she came to be an artist, first getting an English degree, then trying to make herself into someone even though there’s so many other people out there trying to do the same thing. And the video is a hoot and a half so check that out.
The band then cover Merle Haggard’s beauty of a song Kern River showing they can leave the humorous honky tonk hoedowns and let it bleed a little. I couldn’t even tell you if Kern River is a real place but I understand this song, we’ve all been there.
On an album like this you never get the down moments for too long and straight away enters the hilarious horror show of Martha from Marfa, a little rich girl who didn’t even like country music and has somehow become a star, now that dressing up like Emmylou is cool. It’s about how some people get everything their way and other people work hard for not much return. Yup the music industry (and life) really isn’t fair sometimes.
The final part of the album has the indie rocker Say It Anyway which sounds great, a little banjo keeps it country. And you just know there’s going to be a drinking song on an album like this so Drinkin’ Again is a little predictable. I guess my complaint about this song is that it kind of pushes the flippant a little too far. The final two tracks aim for something more serious although perhaps they prove this band’s strength is when they play it for laughs.
The Whiskey Gentry are a tongue in cheek rockabilly alternative to uber serious Americana music. If you’re looking to laugh, smile, dance a little, rock out to a fiddle solo or two then you can’t go wrong with Dead Ringer.