Joshua Ray Walker

Joshua Ray Walker album cover.jpg

Wish You Were Here

State Fair Records


The arrival of a new year puts us all in a reflective mood, but 2019 seems more than averagely uncertain. It’s only natural to feel some anxiety, hopefully mixed with eager anticipation, when the storm clouds are gathering. Here, at Whiskey Preachin, the new year turns our thoughts to the treasures that await us, the sounds that will flip our wigs and the grooves that will define our good times for the next twelve months. How long will it be before the first big album of the new year hits our speakers and fills our hearts. Well, not long at all, it turns out.


The year had hardly got under way when this beauty of an album came a’knocking. I’d been looking forward to hearing more from Joshua Ray Walker since playing the first single, Working Girl, from his up-coming debut album, Wish You Were Here, on the WP radio Show back in September ( The song shows up as the third track on the album, a bopping slice of 21st century country rock that manages to put an infectious groove and a jaunty attitude to the story of a young woman who has found it necessary to do “what she gotta do to get by”. Appetite whetted, I was keen to get stuck into the full meal.

Wish You Were Here is an album that might usually be expected from an artist with something of a back catalogue to stand on, rather than an opening gambit. The truth of the matter is that Joshua Ray Walker has been honing these songs for the last decade, only now delivering them to the wider world. Worth the wait? Most definitely, yes. Walker’s story telling is first-rate, gifting emotionally articulate songs penned by a craftsman and delivered with a voice that mesmerises the listener. Listen to the purity and clarity of Walker’s delivery on Lot Lizard, the latest single to be pulled from the album, the way his voice flips to the higher register so effortlessly. This is a performer who has spent serious time perfecting his art, his writing and his performance. Pure class.


I asked Joshua Ray Walker about his songs, his band and why he called the album Wish You Were Here.

There is already an album called Wish You Were Here. Why did you decide to use this title for your album?

I wanted to find a title that summed up the songs on the album, not just my name, a song title, or a lyric from one of the songs on the record. While brainstorming, the phrase 'Wish You Were Here' popped into my head, with no relation to Pink Floyd. The songs on this record deal with being disconnected from someone or something, so 'Wish You Were Here' just made sense to me.

Who is playing on the rest of the album? Is this your band, friends, people you have played with for years?

Drums - Trey Pendergrass: Trey has been a part of the music scene in Dallas for decades, but this was our first time working together. He was brought in by my producer John Pedigo. Tery was amazing to watch in the studio.

Bass - Billy Bones: Billy and I co-hosted a songwriter night in Dallas back in 2012 where I sang and played my original songs to people for the first time. Billy is an incredible songwriter and Bass player.

Rhythm Electric Guitar - Nathan Mongol Wells: Nathan and I have known each other since middle school, and I've played lead guitar for his band Ottoman Turks since 2012. Nathan is one of my best friends, and I think you can tell how much time we've spent playing together, based on how our guitar parts blend together on the record.

Producer - John Pedigo: John Pedigo produced the record and I can't imagine working with anyone else now. He also played banjo on the record and brought in other staples of the Dallas music scene for auxiliary lead, such as Accordion player Ginny Mac, Pedal Steel from Ward Williams, Organ by Chad Stockslager and Keys and Trumpet by Cory Graves. There is also an appearance by the talented songwriter Van Darien singing a duet with me on the track "Keep". The bulk of the tracking took place at Audio Dallas, where Willie Nelson recorded 'Red Headed Stranger'.


It’s an accomplished set of songs for a debut album. I have seen you quoted as saying you are glad that you got to do this record now, rather than earlier in your career. How many of these songs were written recently, or for this album? Which of these songs have been with you the longest?

Thank you. The oldest song on the album is Fondly, written in 2009. It’s the first song I ever finished. Last Call, written in 2012, is probably the song I've played the most. All the other songs trickled in between then and now. "Love Songs" was finished in the studio, so this record really is a selection that spans almost a decade of writing.


Who would you say is your biggest influence?

I have lots of influences but have never fixated on one for too long. I would say my grandfather, Ray Cheek, was my biggest influence because he introduced me to a lot of good music at a young age, encouraging me to play the instruments that were laying around the house.



When asked, I wasn’t surprised by the list of artists, old and new, that Walker listed as among his listening, a list that included Roy Orbison, Dwight Yoakam, Vince Gill, Jerry Reed & Chet Atkins, Foggy Mountain Boys, Jack White, Guy Clark, Billy Joe Shaver and Sam Baker, as well as Colter Wall, Tyler Childers, John Moreland and Paul Cauthen. He’s also enjoying the new Vandoliers single. If you’re reading this and like any of these artists, you need to listen to Joshua Ray Walker.

Walker’s empathy with his characters allows him to mine emotional depths through his song writing. Embellishing his protagonists’ experiences allows him to explore their situations, as well as feelings that he may share. In Walkers own words, “If it’s by poor decisions or circumstances beyond their control, I find inspiration from the downtrodden and destitute. I see myself in these characters. I use these characters to explore things about myself in songs I’d otherwise be too self-conscious to write about”.


2018 was a great year for new music, and especially so for the type we like to play here at Whiskey Preachin. My cynical side can’t help but wonder how long we can live in this sunny upland before the magic starts to bleed away, the productions get more bloated, the cocaine takes hold of the song-writing talent and the stock of albums that make the grade starts to dwindle. I had been pondering this in the first week of January, hoping that I wouldn’t come to lament the passing of 2018, struck by some sick nostalgia for the music it brought us. Then Wish You Were Here turned up, gave me a big hug and made everything all right. 2019’s not the year I need to worry about. Not yet, at least.

Tony Sexton




The Chris Robinson Brotherhood

CRB Album Cover.jpg

Betty's Midwestern Magick Blends Vol. 4

 Silver Arrow


There are two bands it's hard not to mention when talking about the Chris Robinson Brotherhood. One is, of course, the Black Crowes, the group Chris Robinson formed with his brother Rich, a band that brought some much-needed roll to the 90's rock scene before their volatile relationship and sibling rivalry finally became too much for both to continue in the same outfit. The other is the Grateful Dead, who's example of constant touring, while changing the set list every night for their travelling fans, and then releasing those shows on a multitude of live recording, seems to have been taken as an instruction manual of how a modern band can not only survive, but prosper on their own terms in this age of something-for-nothing streaming services.


The Grateful Dead references don't end there, either. This live recording, and several others CRB have released on their own label, Silver Arrow, since 2013, was captured by the legendary Betty Cantor-Jackson, a recording engineer who taped hundreds of Grateful Dead concerts during Garcia & co.'s peak years. Her ability to capture the magic(k) of a band in full flight has certainly not faded with time.


This set kicks off with rolling ivories, heralding Forever As The Moon, a keyboard line that bares more than a passing resemblance to the intro of the Doo Doo Doo Doo Doo (Heartbreaker). The snaking slide guitar of Neal Casal that soon accompanies the piano vamp does nothing to dispel the Stones comparisons, although the lyrical poetry owes more to Dylan than Jagger in this instance. In fact, most of the tracks selected here represent the more rootsy side of CRB's recent output. Psychedelic interludes and flourishes still remain, though, and the bands ability to stretch out and jam is shown off to fine effect, especially on the barnstorming 11-minute version of the Jerry Leiber-penned, southern soul hit, Down Home Girl, originally recorded by Alvin Robinson. Peppered with some deliciously funky Sly Stone clavinet, it would almost be worth the price of the concert ticket just to see this performed live. The yearning cowboy melodies of Shadow Cosmos follows, then lead on to possibly their biggest song yet, the epic Narcissus Soaking Wet. A-10 minute monster jam that definitively answers the question "What would it have sounded like if Pink Floyd and Stevie Wonder had got it together in their mid-70's pomp. Robinson spits out a couple of bad-ass honking harmonica solos before Neal Casal lets rip with a stratospheric guitar solo.


Casal originally started off playing for Rickey Medlockes' southern rockers Blackfoot, before making a name for himself in Ryan Adams backing band the Cardinals. Apart from his role in CRB, he also currently plays with Hard Working Americans, The Skiffle Players and Circles Around the Sun. His quality guitar playing and song writing always add a real touch of class to every project he's involved in. But back to the gig, and the soul/prog experiments continue on Precious Precious. originally a hit for Jacksonville soul diva Jackie Moore and here featuring a mammoth Moog solo that I'm certain was never envisioned by the writers when the song was first composed. For Black Crowes fans yet to experience Chris Robinsons current direction, the most Marmite aspect will most likely be those keyboards. The bending analogue sythesizer lines of Adam McDougall play a prominent role in much of the music made here, which can be a shock to those used to the Humble Pie / Faces grittiness of those early Crowes releases. There can certainly be a fine line between the Mothership funk of Bernie Worrell and the theme from Grange Hill and, although the combination of sounds at first seemed like very odd bedfellows to me, I have really grown to love the qualities that sound brings. Quite often it's the grit in the oyster that elevates the CRB output into something truly unique. Another cover follows in the form of Magic Carpet Ride, a faithful, if more fleet-of-foot, rendition than the Steppenwolf original. Those feet well and truly leave the ground when the band ignite their rocket boots and launch into full wig out mode (twice!). Then it's back to the original compositions with the desert blues of Somewhere Past the Sunset, recalling Texan guitar god Joe Ely, amongst others. This is followed by a magnificent version of one of my favourite CRB tunes, New Cannonball Rag, which, at nearly 13-minutes, takes the Deadhead boogie of the studio version right out to the edge of the Solar System and back.


Robinson’s vocal dexterity is on fine display all throughout these recordings, but especially during It's All Over Now, Baby Blue. Most of Dylans' compositions have been covered several times and this one is no exception, yet despite the rarified company, Chris more than holds his own, as the band add shades of Leon Russell to this spin on this old classic. I've always been a big fan of Robinson’s delivery, right back from when I got to see them in Manchester on their first UK tour waaay back in 1990. Considering his herbal requirements and his relentless touring schedule, his voice has survived remarkably well in a way that belies his age. The register is maybe a fraction deeper and the edges a little more grizzled, but he was, and remains, a rock singer of unique quality and soul. Backed by a band that plays with all the assurance of The Band, the audacity of the Allmans and is free of the shackles of expectation that comes with having to play songs you first wrote nearly 30 years ago, you can just tell that Robinson is right where he needs to be at this point in his career, and enjoying every minute of it. You can hear it in the assured delivery of the last two CRB compositions, Ain't It Hard But Fair and California Hymn, and, as if to silence those blinkered old Black Crowes fans who just won't be happy unless Chris Robinson is shaking his moneymaker to a Stones back-beat, this quality collection finishes with a dynamite rendition of Let It Bleed that could only come from that wily old Crowe.

 Michael Hosie


JP Harris

Sometimes Dogs Bark At Nothing

Free Dirt Records



I’ve been a JP Harris fan for some time now. I was lucky to spin a handful tunes at a gig he played in Brighton a few of years back. I picked up his two albums and soon started playing Gear Jammin Daddy (form the JP Harris and the Tough Choices album I’ll Keep Calling, 2012) in our Whiskey Preachin DJ sets. When, soon after that gig, we started the Whiskey Preachin Radio Show, Gear Jammin Daddy took pole position as the opening tune on the first show.

Photo by Giles Clement

Released on Maryland’s Free Dirt records (who also brought us top notch albums form Western Centuries, The Hackensaw Boys and Porky LaFarge, among others), Sometimes Dogs Bark at Nothing was always going to be of interest to the WP ears, naturally. It was only a matter of seconds after the first track started that I knew it was going to have to open one of our shows (it’s the first track on the September 2018 Pt.2 show, there’s a link at the bottom of the page).

JP’s Florida Blues #1 opens the album, riding an organ groove and insistent drums, with backing singers reminiscent of an Elvis comeback show and lyrics that should draw attention form FHP.  JPH spins a tale of losing his mind out on the highway, when it’s 85 degrees and snowing. This one is guaranteed to be heard in WP sets for years to come. In fact, there are several track from this fine album that are sure to be getting plenty of WP attention, including Hard Road and Jimmy’s Dead and Gone (both up-tempo numbers suited to our favourite Friday night whiskey joint) as well as Runaway (a dobro-drenched head-nodder) and When I Quit Drinking (a lovely slice of mid-tempo honky tonk).The dobro forms the backbone of the title track as well, allowing Harris to show of his singer-songwriter credentials, while I Only Drink Alone drops the lights and the tempo for a gently swinging honky tonk lament.

Now based in Music City, Harris is originally from Montgomery, Alabama, one of the few cities in AL I am lucky to have visited, where Hank Williams is buried and where, 28 years before Harris was born, Rosa Parks refused to sit at the back of the bus. In his decade-long career as a country singer (outside of his day job as a sought-after carpenter), Harris has released three fine albums and the Why Don’t We Duet In The Road EP (which features Nikki Lane, Kristina Murray (whose recent album Southern Ambrosia has been playing on the WP show), Kelsey Waldon and Leigh Nash. Harris’s performance at the 2018 Americanfest in Nashville was well received by the critics, as was his choice to work with a slew of talented female country artist, when female artists seem to have been overlooked somewhat in the awards themselves. At the Sunday Morning Coming Down party that he hosted at the end of the festival (which I would love to have been able to attend), Harris shared the stage with Elizabeth Cook, The Watson Twins, Erin Rae and Kristina Murray. Fair play, although I find it odd that this should be the exception. Why wouldn’t a talented male artist want to share the stage with a bunch of talented female artists? He got to hang out with female artists he clearly respects and made himself look good into the bargain. Surely that’s a win-win?

Sometimes Dogs Bark at Nothing should certainly see JP Harris reaching a broader audience. This album provides the latest example of just how good today’s country music can be. First rate stuff, all we need now is some UK tour dates, please, hopefully at a slightly bigger venue.

 Tony Sexton

Alejandro Escovedo


The Crossing

Yep Roc Records


“Bang Bang! There’s trouble in America” shouts Alejandro Escovedo on Fury and Fire, a blast of angry 21st century rock and roll protest, a stand-out lyric from The Crossing. A concept album built on the story of Salvo and Diego, two kids, Italian and Mexican respectively, who meet in Texas and decide to start a band, to make music just like the great records that started them on their separate crossings to the USA. As our two protagonists travel further into America, dreams are shattered by experiences as the harsh reality of America bleeds in. Fertile ground, indeed, for a song writer of Mexican-American heritage such as Escovedo, whom No Depression magazine have already declared artist of the decade. No pressure, then. I was weary when I approached the album for my first listen.

Alejandro Escovedo has had a diverse career since he first appeared as a founding member of the San Francisco punk band The Nuns, back in 1975. Prior to his recordings under his own name in a more style, Escovedo wielded his guitar for several notable bands, including Austin Cowpunk pioneers Rank and File, and The True Believers. Never one to be pinned down by musical borders, Escovedo is not easy to fence in.

Having already played the lead single, Sonica USA, featuring the guitar work of MC5’s Wayne Kramer, on the Whiskey Preachin radio show several months prior to the albums release, I had been expectantly waiting to hear the full work. Reviews I had read in the intervening months had been unanimous in putting the album on a pedestal, using words like “cinematic” and “masterwork”, describing Escovedo as one of the great songwriters of our time, in a genre of his own. I’d learnt that, alongside MC5’s Kramer, James Williamson of The Stooges also plays on one track, Teenage Luggage, that Joe Ely appears on two tracks, writing one of them, as does Richmond Fontaine’s Willy Vlautin. With such a build-up, I was worried that I wouldn’t like it, that maybe the artfulness and the concept would get in the way of the listen. There was no need to worry. On first listen, it was clear we were dealing with a very fine album indeed.

From a Whiskey Preachin perspective, there are a handful of tracks on The Crossing that we might choose to play in DJ set, more that would work well on the radio show. Outlaw for You is a tune that occupies a space in the musical Venn diagram where Whiskey Preachin and our friends Stay Sick could happily co-habit without squabbling over the stereo, a slice of classic garage rock Americana, like a cross between The Sir Douglas Quintet and ? and The Mysterians. Brilliant. The Aforementioned Sonica USA is all driving rock and roll, as is Fury and Fire, full of anger and political angst that many of us are feeling, no matter where we live. One of the strongest tracks comes towards the end of the album, the penultimate tune, MC Overlord, a mightily impressive No Wave post-punk workout.

The album’s slower tracks are where many of the guest singers appear and, if anything, give the album the structure necessary to navigate the story around the bigger, brasher rock and roll numbers. Joe Ely, who’s song Fingernails turned Joe Strummer onto Texas music, contributes the song Silver City, adding a touch of classic Texas songwriter to the sprawling kaleidoscope of musical influences and styles displayed on The Crossing. Ely returns to voice the spoken-word title track, The Crossing, closing out the album with a lament for broken dreams and broken lives, scorched along the Mexican border.

“The border crossed me, I didn’t cross it. If you really want to think of it, you’re the wetback, coming across the Atlantic”. Rio Navidad is another track where the story is exposited in spoken-work, this time written by Willy Vlautin (Richmond Fontaine, The Delines) and spoken by fellow Richmond Fontaine member, Freddy Trujillo, taking the reins to expound Diego’s story in Vlautin’s words. Another highlight of the album is the wonderful instrumental, Amor Puro, which opens with an almost Casio keyboard-style bossa groove before expanding into the sort of sleazy popcorn joint Calexico might bring to the party, if they had just come back form a desert surfing holiday.

The Crossing was recorded in Italy with Antonio Gramentieri and his band Don Antonio. Gramentieri is also credited with having written much of the album with Escovedo. The two travelled between Italy and Texas for their writing sessions, to soak up the atmosphere of both locations, home landscapes of the two characters in The Crossing. After all, the essence of south Tejas will always be Mexican. Gramentieri’s previous band, Sacri Cuori (Sacred Hearts), created music influenced and inspired by Italian film scores, having written music for film themselves. On The Crossing, it feels as if the soundtrack influence allowed for the diversity of styles to hang together as a single album. The very idea of a concept album could almost be imagined as a film made in music, so a group of musicians with experience in soundtracks makes perfect sense. There is something about The Crossing that made me think of the soundtrack created by Frank Black for a 1920s silent film called The Golem. For those of you with an interest in reading sleeve notes, Gramentieri also played guitar on Giant Sand’s 2015 album Heartbreak Pass.

The Crossing is a big album, seventeen tracks, covering lots of ground, myriad styles and influences; punk, rock and roll, Americana, ballads, spoken-word, surf and twang. It’s an ambitious work that shouldn’t really hang together as well as it does. It’s a melting pot of sounds and styles, just like the man whose name is on the sleeve. 

Tony Sexton

Cliff Westfall


 Baby You Win



We are lucky today to be in a world where quality independent country music is the strongest it has been for decades, possibly ever. Whether you lean towards outlaw, cosmic, countrypolitan or singer-songwriter, honky tonk or bluegrass, there’s something out there for everyone. You can add Cliff Westfall’s album, Baby You Win, to that list. Packed with classic honky tonk sounds, with a production that manages to fell fresh and bygone at the same time, Baby You Win is reverential without falling into the trap of pastiche. Westfall’s lyrics are finely honed, at times wonderfully humorous, at others heart breaking, as only real a country songs can be. The press release helpfully prompts the busy reviewer that they should make some time for this album if they like Dwight Yoakam, Robbie Fulks or Rodney Crowell, and these are certainly good markers. Baby You Win does remind me of Fulks’s Georgia Hard album and Yoakam’s Guitars, Cadillacs, Etc., Etc., both albums I have gone back to time and time again, so I didn’t need much convincing.

Photo by Rosie Cohe

Westfall is a son of the south, hailing from Kentucky, the bluegrass state, although he calls New York home now. His band boasts so much experience, it’s no wonder they make such a fine sound together. The roll call of artists that members of the band have played with is impressive, if not daunting; Shooter Jennings, Norah Jones, Valerie June, Laura Cantrell, Ronnie Spector, Danger Mouse, Bruce Springsteen. Add to that producer Bryce Goggin, who has worked with The Ramones, Pavement and Antony and The Johnsons, and you have some serious talent in the studio.

Photo by Rosie Cohe

When deciding if an album should be reviewed here, the main considerations is whether it would fit in a Whiskey Preachin DJ set, or on the radio show. So, with that in mind, I was keen to find out if Westfall would deliver on our terms. The album gets off to a good start with a chirpy bopper, It Hurt Her to Hurt Me, followed by the twanging rock & roll of the title track, no surprise that Westfall cites Chuck Berry as a big influence. Till the Right One Comes Along drops to a shuffle, with a piano sound that brings to mind Patsy Cline, or Charlie Rich. So far, so good, all sounding very nice. I could play a lot of this on the radio, or when DJing in support of a band, but I’m not sure any of it would work in a full-on Whiskey Preachin DJ set. The next track, More and More, firms up my resolve that, while this is a solid, nice album, I won’t be needing to splash out on a vinyl copy.

Just as I think I’ve got this one pegged, the next track, Off the Wagon, kicks in. A lovely funky twang is soon under-pinned by a rolling train shuffle and an infectious guitar line that pricks my ears up immediately. As the lyrics unwind themselves, I can’t keep my smile under control, I know I’ve found a WP winner. Then the lead guitar does its thing and the steel rips it up and I’m gone.  No more evidence, your honour. A couple of tunes later, I’ll Play the Fool pulls a similar stunt on me, and I’m starting to hope that this album is being pressed up on vinyl, after all. Two sure fire WP tunes earns an album a place in the record box. I’m sold, even before a third winner, The End of the Line, kicks in to make this a three-spin album, making it all but essential.

Photo by Diego Britt

There are still two more songs to go, but, frankly, I’m happy for this baby to coast out, nice and easy, after all the hard work that has been presented so far. Well, I should know better by now, of course. Westfall closes out the twelve tracks of Baby You Win with a lovely drop of country funk, titled The Odds Were Good. That makes four solid Whiskey Preachin spins on a single album, and a body count that high raises a few eyebrows around here. But don’t get me wrong, just because there are four tracks that could happily grace any WP set, that’s not to say the rest of the album is a slouch. Far from it, this baby is packed with honky tonk goodness, from the first note to the last. Baby, we’re all winners here.

Tony Sexton

Jason Eady

I Travel On.jpg

I Travel On

Old Guitar Records



A Jason Eady album is always easy on the ear and I Travel On is no different. You don’t get a huge amount of grit or rough edges from him, just well written tunes and cleverly constructed lyrics. In fact, his voice and songwriting style reminds me of early 90’s country star Clint Black, and that’s no bad thing.

If you’re new to Eady, 2014’s Daylight & Dark is especially worth checking out, a nice mix of honky tonk stormers and late-night laments, but this album takes a slight detour from his previous outings. Eady's earlier sound was fairly well set in the country-hony tonk arena, with a backbone of thoughtful acoustic tunes. ‘I Travel On’ has a more bluegrass feel to it, with a few swampy, bluesy tracks thrown in to mix it up. In fact, a couple of the songs have a Tony Joe White groove about them. Now or Never and That’s Alright especially. The more ‘present’ sound of the band also makes this feel different. In the past, Eady has sometimes felt like a solo artist working with backing musicians who are almost incidental, as if the songs were more important than the delivery. Here it sounds like a true ‘band’ effort, and adding a couple of bluegrass musicians, Grammy-nominated Rob Ickes and Trey Hensley, has also made a big impact.

Jason Eady.jpg


The fact that the songs were captured live in one take shows the cohesiveness and skill of all concerned. The opener, Lost My Mind in Carolina, sets its stall out pretty quickly, with a melange of bluegrassy licks before Eady’s distinctive vocals kick in. It’s a lively, driving tune that leads into the swampy grind of Now or Never, with its unusual, picked-out, twangy refrain. 

Eady’s wife, Courtney Patton - a brilliant songwriter and singer in her own right - joins in on backing vocals on a couple of tunes, while the band proves its credentials with some lovely licks and solos to fill out the sound. Everything flows nicely, with ballads leading into country shuffles and bluesy grooves. Below the Waterline stands out a little from the rest, with its feel of a more traditional folk song, its pace and atmosphere acting as a nice palate cleanser. Your sensibilities now soothed, you’re headed straight into the frenetic Pretty when I die, which has the energy and thrust of a full-throttle Turnpike Troubadours track.

Jason Eady delivers with a conviction and authority that has you believing that his tales are based on personal experiences. A great example of this is She had to Run, which has the feel of a more countrified Jason Isbell ballad. Eady is one of those guys who seems to just get better and better, and this album gets better each time you hear it. I Travel On offers a slightly different flavour to Eady's usual output, but one that really tickles the taste buds, for sure. Get it on the menu at your local honky tonk today.

Pat Comer

D.T. Buffkin

Saturday Night, Sunday Morning

Shotgun House Records


I love music that keeps me coming back, that makes me want to understand where it’s coming from, to see the recipe between my ears. Where are these guys coming from? What have they been getting up to? What made them concoct a sound like this? I remember the first time I put the needle on a Doug Sahm record, how I was transported to the Texas boarderlands, by way of Haight Ashbury. Sahm’s band, The Sir Douglas Qunitet, mixed the influences they heard around them in San Antonio, Texas, blending the local honky tonk and Chicano conjunto with rhythm and blues, rolling it all up and setting light to it. I took a deep breath, the sound was intoxicating.

D.T. Buffkin

DT Buffkin has a lot in common with Doug Sahm, including his home town, some of his fellow musicians, and his proclivity for melting cultural influences together in a way that would seem to be a hallmark of San Antone music. Augie Meyers, original founding member of The Sir Douglas Quintet, plays organ on the song Houston St. on Buffkin’s album, a gentle, rolling rumba that might conjure up thoughts of old Havana, possibly even Parisian boulevards, as much as it does south Texas. You can see Meyers playing organ with Buffkin on his righteous cover of the Sir Douglas Quintet hit She’s About a Mover, backed by Garrett T Capps on drums and Flaco Jimenez on accordion. Buffkin is label mates with Capps, both calling Shotgun House Records home. In fact, if you are lucky enough to own the excellent 7” version of Capps’s Born in San Antone, you will already have a DT Buffkin track on the other side.

Saturday Night, Sunday Morning is a slow-burner of an album. Allow yourself to wallow in these songs and you will soon find that they have crept inside your consciousness. It’s an album for the elegantly disheveled, for those who know what it is to have lost love, for the no-account boozers and the can’t-help-but losers. It’s an album for poets and dropouts, for smoky late nights and rainy-day mornings, for the coming down that probably wasn’t worth the going up, for those of us resigned to reaching for the bottle after the horse has bolted. If you want touchstones, you can take your pick, but, suffice it to say, not one of these artist sounds like DT Buffkin. They are all reference points I stumbled upon while trying to place Buffkin’s music: early Willie Nelson, The Shirells, Billie Holiday, Nashville Skyline-era Dylan, Howe Gelb, even Amy Winehouse, if she had been born male and in Texas. I guess you could argue that Charlie Crockett is a fair comparison from today, but, to these ears, Buffkin is making music that will weather the vagaries of time far better. This album is already timeless, where as Crockett’s latest sounds like it has been produces for today’s market. I know which album I’m more likely to return to in ten years.

Cover of D.T. Buffkins split 7", which he shared with Garrett T Capps.

Some reviews naturally take longer to write than others. Maybe this is down to struggling to find an in, a hook to hang it all on, the right words. Perhaps, you think, one more listen will help you do justice to the artist whose work you are toying with, one more spin to see what comes to mind this time. Saturday Night, Sunday Morning is a case in point. The subtlety of the playing, the world-weary lyrics, the soulful melancholy of the vocal delivery, the aching resignation at the core of every song, combine to produce an ethereal haze around the music that makes it difficult to recall when the album ends, in a way that bothers you until you play it again. There is much beauty here, and it is through the acceptance of life’s little tragedies that it is revealed.

Tony Sexton


That Santa Fe Channel

ATO Records


Looks can be deceptive. Cordovas have the rough and ready look of a bunch of prospectors from the California gold rush, but while they rock that 49er chic, there's a real sophistication to their classy take on the Americana sound. Bandleader Joe Firstman's previous experience, as musical director on NBC's late-night show Last Call with Carson Daly, has certainly stood him in good stead. Performing nightly alongside first-rate musicians, such as Thundercat and Kamasi Washington, can only create the highest of standards, and Firstman has corralled a crack troupe of musicians, capable of delivering a tune as slick and polished as any pop act, but never sounding plastic.

This is real, heartfelt roots music, never overblown but, despite its confidence, often displaying a certain fragility. Expertly captured by producer Kenneth Pattengale. opening track This Town's A Drag is a case in point. Many touring bands have written about killing time while stuck in Anytown, USA, but few manage to convey the feelings of yearning and resignation as eloquently as Cordovas. It's also one hell of an earworm. Check out the footage of them performing the track live at Toe Rag studios, when they were last in London. Selfish Loner is a tale of a charming lowlife sleaze accompanied with quicksilver slick pedal steel and angelic three-part vocal harmonies. In fact, the vocal harmonies really are key to the success of this album. Firstman insisted that all vocal parts be recorded at the same time, until the perfect take was achieved, and it pays off, embellishing every track, from the funky roots-rock of Talk to Me to the soulful Santa Fe, with a quality few acts can manage.

Of course, there are influences here, too, with a nod to the Allmans on occasion, and I had to check that I'm The One That Needs You Tonight wasn't an obscure Dylan composition I was yet to discover. The album is also infused with a world-weary tenderness, recalling Gram Parsons solo recordings, but it's really The Band and Little Feat that are the most obvious comparisons, not only in the songwriting but also the sheer quality of musicianship.

Although Cordovas eponymous debut album was released in the UK in the last couple of years, it was actually recorded six years ago, and a couple of its strongest compositions make a reappearance on That Santa Fe Channel. Standing on the Porch originally had more of a stomping beat, but here it has a skip in its step that allows it to swing and shay in a more danceable way, while Step Back Red, previously heavily indebted to The Band and still containing Robbie Robertson's DNA, has been embellished with playful jazzy elements after years of jamming on the road. Still love that original version though.

Michael Hosie


If you get a kick form seeing talented, tried and true musicians performing first class, original material with a passion and verve that ignites an enthusiastic sympathy in the audience; if you like songs to be crafted and honed, to be worth the time it takes to write them, not just to listen; and if you like your country music filtered through the musical strata of the decades, lightly wearing influences from old time mountain harmonies to classic California country-rock; if you like the sound of a band that might make you think of Little Feat, The Band, Steely Dan, even, at times, White Denim, then you need to check out Cordovas.

Tony Sexton

Sarah Shook & The Disarmers


Bloodshot Records



A few years ago, I was trawling YouTube for some country music and came across a track called Dwight Yoakam. The video was a black and white, homemade-looking affair of a dishevelled, possibly drunk, probably hungover girl who belted out the first line of the song in a throaty, yodely draw “I’m drinking water tonight cos I drank all the whisky this morning…”. I was hooked. Now, a few years later, Sarah Shook & the Disarmers have released their second long-player, Years.

Years treads a similar path to that first album, Sidelong, which was a raucous affair of fuck-ups, one-night stands who sound like Dwight Yoakam, and redemption through rye whisky. This latest effort, though, has a slightly less desperate air about it. It’s still a breaking-up-moving-on-unlucky-in-love-get-me-a-drink-quick affair, but Sarah seems more in control of her demons. The songs are more rounded and less edgy than before; with the writing and lyrical wordplay undeniably living in the world of country, they have that quality of sounding familiar the first time you hear them. The band deliver a fuller sound too, with the not-too-overdone solos giving the tunes a nicely balanced feel. The Disarmers sound like they’ve travelled thousands of highway miles together.

A rockabilly beat flavours a couple of the tracks, especially ‘Damned if I do…’, and there are a couple of down-beat, tears-in-your-beer tunes thrown in for good measure - ‘Parting words’ and ’Heartache in Hell’ - but generally this album whips along. Sarah’s smoky, hillbilly drawl is truly distinct and adds a level of authenticity to her tales of all-night drinking and all-day heartache, differentiating her from the retro-hued tones of Margo Price or Nikki Lane. You tend to believe the tales she’s telling, but, o be honest, it sounds like she doesn’t really care if you believe her or no - no apologies are offered or accepted.

The noir-esque ‘The bottle never lets me down’ sets this unapologetic tone, preferring the company of the always reliable bottle to her obviously not very reliable, soon to be ex. How very country. The final track, ’Years’, is the stand-out for me, a plaintive tale, regretting how the good times were over before the protagonists even realised.

If you like your country full of hungover heartache, with regrets thrown out like yesterday’s empties, then this may be the album for you. I suggest you check out Sarah Shook’s first album, ‘Sidelong’, as well. In my opinion, it grabs you that little bit harder than its slightly more polished, younger sibling. If ‘Sidelong’ was drinking straight from the bottle, ‘Years’ has opted for the slightly more refined, but equally as effective shot glass. Cheers.

Pat Comer

Jesse Daniel

Jesse Daniel




Now we’re talkin’! Another great self-released country album, the sort of record that takes you by surprise, barrelling around a dangerous curve at 100 mph. There’s so much to like on Jesse Daniel’s eponymous debut; the songs are strong, the production has just the right amount of grit and the vibe’s up-beat, like a Saturday night in a California roadhouse, with lashings of electric twang, witty lyrics and a real good thump to the drums. With titles like Hell Bent and Comin’ Down Again, it’s not difficult to imagine what this album has in store. That said, few new artists can tell it as straight and true as Jesse Daniel does on Soft Spot (for the Hard Stuff), a confessional of sorts. Daniel’s story of substance abuse is no mere lyrical conjuring of romantic fantasy, rather a first-hand expression of a life he has thankfully managed to escape.

Starting out as a drummer for several punk bands around his home in Ben Lomand, California (north of Santa Cruz), Daniel found himself on the road and increasingly out of his head on various substances, graduating to the queen of the main line. Life followed a pick-n-mix of rehab, jail and homelessness. Daniel’s story of how he found his path to becoming a country musician is almost prophetic. Passing by a thrift shop on his way back to a motel room for a fix, he saw a group of homeless watching a TV in the window. Stopping to see what they were watching, he heard one of the men exclaim “hey, they’re pretty good”, before realising that one of the musicians on screen was his own father. Jesse and the other men went off to fix up in another motel room, where there was a TV set in the corner playing Buck Owens singing Act Naturally. Jesse Daniel hadn’t exactly seen the light, but the seeds of his redemption had been sewn.

A few years later, while in rehab in Oakland, Jesse heard the strum and twang of someone playing a Hank Williams tune in the next room. Wandering in to investigate, he sat to listen, later making his mind up to kick his habit, lay down the needle in favour of the guitar. Daniel hdd found his path at last, eventually managing to get on his feet, save $50 to buy a battered old Fender and start writing songs.

Soft Spot (for the Hard Stuff) doesn’t pull any punches in the story it tells, as the protagonist packs his life into a glass pipe and burns it down to the ground, all to a solid outlaw groove that adds the song extra credence. It’s a sure-fire Whiskey Preachin winner, as is SR-22 Blues, an up-tempo romp of a tale of a guy who has lost his driving licence for DUI and now walks twenty miles to his SR-22, the light aircraft that has replaced his car! The Banker is another highlight on this gem of an album, like a modern-day remake of Chuck Berry’s You Never Can Tell, spinning the yarn of as banker who has been run over, resulting in thousands of dollars blowing down the street from his busted briefcase. If only…

Jessie Daniel has released a record that I expect will be at the front of the Whiskey Preachin record box for years to come. My LP copy can’t turn up soon enough.


Tony Sexton

The Sheepdogs

Changing Colours.jpg

Changing Colours

Dine Alone Records




It's been a long, strange trip for Canadian band The Sheepdogs. After a succession of self-released records in the late noughties, in 2011 they became the first unsigned band ever to make the cover of Rolling Stone, consequently scooping a deal with Atlantic Records, releasing the Five Easy Pieces EP and a self-titled album, both produced by Black Keys drummer Patrick Carney. They hit the road far and wide, getting to support one of their all-time heroes, John Fogerty, in the process (the tour later described by drummer, Sam Corbett, as "probably the cushiest ever for us"). Following the departure of guitarist Leot Hanson, friend-of-the-band Rusty Matyas stepped into the breach, eventually joining as a full-time member in 2014.


The Sheepdogs' fifth studio album, Future Nostalgia, came out in October 2015 on the independent label Dine Alone Records and Warner Music Canada, and shortly after they changed line up once again, this time picking up award-winning blues guitarist Jimmy Bowskill from Ontario, really moved things up a notch. By this point, the Sheepdogs were already a road-hardened act who knew how to write a mean tune and rock a sweaty room, over time their tastes having broadened to include more country, folk and blues, even elements of jazz into their classic rock mix. The addition of Bowskill was akin to adding a turbocharger to their engine power. Things feel like they have been leading to this point.



The first three tracks of Changing Colours sock you right on the jaw with a robust, punchy production courtesy of Thomas D'Arcy. Opening salvo Nobody is a CCR-style feelgood radio hit with added Allman Bros. licks and some exquisite slide guitar, setting the tone for the next 50 minutes of music. Hot on its heels is Hole Where My Heart Should Be, and it boogies like Skynyrd tangoing with the Hoodoo Rhythm Devils. On record it rocks hard enough, but after witnessing it live I can honestly say it was one of the highlights of this year’s Black Deer festival. In a blink of an eye we're into Saturday Night, driven along by relentless piano and slashing guitar chords that recalls Joe Walsh in his prime. Its super catchy chorus, sang by Ewan Currie, is laid back yet to the point, with minimum gravel and plenty of melody, very much like Steve Miller's vocal delivery style.



After the opening trio of big-hitters, it's almost a relief when the band ease their foot off the gas for the sweet country-pop singalong Let It Roll, and the Steely Dan/Santana smooth groove-athon The Big Nowhere, layers of Hammond organ and brass supplied by the younger Currie brother, Shamus. The self-effacing I Ain't Cool and the mean and moody glam chug of You Gotta Be A Man then leads us back into the more Latin-tinged rhythms of Cool Down, with lashings of Doorsy rhodes piano liberally sprinkled over Ryan Gullen's delicate bass lines. 


The Sheepdogs ace in the hole, though, is their precision-tooled twin guitar harmonies. Duane and Dickey set the template for this style of guitar playing, but Ewan and Jimmy have picked up the ball and they’ve ran with it. It's a sound very few bands attempt these days. Maybe that’s because it takes a hell of a lot of practice to develop such a telepathic sounding synchronicity, flitting from hard and tight riffs to jazzier motifs in a flourish, such as on Kiss the Brass Ring. Cherries Jubilee is short and sweet and supplies a celebration of country funk as juicy as the name suggests. The weirdest left field turn on the album is I'm Just Waiting for My Time, in some ways the most affected, yet affecting, song on the whole album. Changing Colours is a record steeped in the sounds of America, but this one track stands alone with a vibe that comes from the other side of the pond; psychedelic British blues channelled with the Celtic spirit of Rory Gallagher.


The album finishes with a six-song medley, kicking off with the plucked banjo intro of Born a Restless Man, before leading to an explosion of big southern harmonies. The Bailie Turnaround has classy country guitar licks straight out of the Clarence White playbook, while Up in Canada could be the alternative Canuck national anthem, especially since the country has just decided to legalise the use of pot. In fact, I can see Jimmy Bowskill standing on the roof of the Canadian parliament in his bright yellow hemp leaf cowboy suit playing this now, (sure beats Brian May on the roof of Buckingham Palace, anyway, someone should start a petition). HMS Buffalo rolls into Esprit Des Corps, bringing more Allman style twin guitar lines, surfing a waterfall of ivory tickling. Finally, the journey ends with the Latinate yacht rock of Run Baby Run, which could have slotted in seamlessly on Stephen StillsManassas album. Yes, The Sheepdogs wear their influences on their sleeves boldly, but they also bring plenty to the party themselves, playing their music with such aplomb that few, if any, contemporary bands can beat them in the good time rock'n'roll stakes. This big-hearted record can't help but bring a smile to your face.

Michael Hosie


Svvamp 2 Cover.jpg


RidingEasy Records



It may be nearly 6000 miles between Jönköping, home to Swedish band Svvamp, and Hemosa Beach, California, where RidingEasy records is based, and no doubt the weather couldn't be more different, but despite the distance there's clearly a strong affinity linking the ethos of this band and the record label that signed them. Long-time friends Adam Johansson, Henrik Bjorklund and Erik Stahlgren were drawn together by a love of jamming the type of fuzz heavy blues rock that was all the rage in the early 1970s. If you've checked out any of the RidingEasy compilations, Brown Acid (a series focusing on rare as hen’s teeth hard rock and heavy psych, now on its 6th trip), then you might understand that this is a match made in heaven.

Justas the Brown Acid series features an array of private-pressed and self-released underground rock music from way back when, so there's a definite homespun quality to the kind of music Svvamp make. The band’s first album was self-recorded on a 4-channel cassette deck and their second album continues very much where the previous one left off, despite the band having indulged in the decadent luxury of recording on a 6-track system. Oversized mixing desks aren't really needed here, though, as this is music that keeps things nice and simple. Eschewing unnecessary bells and whistles for a classic sound that is simultaneously heavy and rocking, yet lazy and loping, Svvamp have the confidence to let their music take its time in much the same way that the music of Free refused to be hurried. 


There's certainly a rollcall of classic rock influences here, from the sleazy slide guitar and Mountain-esque riffs to be heard on Queen, which could have been picked from Leslie West's extremely large pockets, to the Zeppy crunch of Hillside and the weighty Sabbath blast of Alligator, which closes the album. It's not all heavy stuff though, Sunshine Street is reminiscent of Hendrix at his most poppy and playful, while How Sweet It Would Be builds on a Canned Heat choogle, with bassist Erik Stahlgrens softer vocal approach sounding a little like Marc Bolan after a hit on some killer weed. Guitarist Henrik Bjorklund also gets to sing on the beautiful solo spot Blues Inside, too. It's usually drummer Adam Johansson who takes care of vocal duties, though, also contributing the bubbling synthesizer lines which lace Surrender, probably the most psychedelic track on Svvamp 2. It's the gritty Out of Line, though, that confirms this LP as a record for Whiskey Preachers. It has Lynyrd Skynyrd's bad boy groove written all over it and the band build up a real head of steam that is impossible to resist.

The only criticism of Svvamp 2 from me is that sometimes the vocals are a little lost in the mix. I can’t help but wonder what this band would sound like with a designated singer up front, belting out these tunes. But then again, maybe that would all be a little too showy for these guys, a band who clearly like to just get their heads down and rock. I reckon this band will be riding easy for a long time to come.

Michael Hosie

Dalas Moore


Mr Honky Tonk

Sol Records


What makes a great outlaw country record? It’s highly subjective, of course. There are certain tropes that signpost an outlaw country tune; tales of the late nights and the road, hard drinking, whiskey and women, honky tonks and musical heroes are all reasons we love to listen to this music, great stories of love, loss and excess told with a wry sense of humour and lyrical inventiveness that is seldom found elsewhere. All of these elements are important, but it is not a simple matter of ticking off a list. You can have all these factors in place and still be missing something. The voice, of course, is vital, but so is the attitude, the way the material is approached, not only by the singer, but buy the rest of the band and, importantly, the producer. For all these elements to align perfectly, in a way that suits your own personal, subjective taste, it a wonderful thing. Should any one of them be even slightly off mark, the overall result is diminished. Many a lovely album has been spoiled by the way it was produced, while a good album may be let down by some of the material. Not every record can be on the money from start to finish, that’s where having your own personal taste in music comes in. As someone who loves records and lives to discover music, new and old, there is nothing quite like finding an album that really takes you there, where everything has come together to generate a sum greater than its parts. Dallas Moore’s Mr Honky Tonk is one of those records.


The album opens with Home is where the Highway Is. No heartache or road-weary longing for home here, just pinning for the open road, unfettered horizons and the next gig in the next state, fresh adventures down the road. A steady kick and shimmering strum let the easy rolling chords of the B3 lead you to the lonesome harmonica and the story of a wandering minstrel ranging over the land of the free. This is classic stuff, nothing new, naturally, but played so deftly and produced with such taste that you are instantly transported by the singer and his song, letting the musical backing carry you along the road with him. It is only when you tear yourself away from Moore’s peripatetic ramblings to focus on the music that you start to realise how well recorded the song is. You’re in for a treat. The album’s title track, Mr Honky Tonk, is next up, and by now you know you’re in safe hands. This is the real deal, 21st century honky tonk that wears its heart on its sleeve, somewhere between Johnny Paycheck and Moe Bandy; “He don’t know how to two-step, but he sure can cut a rug”, this is good-time, Saturday-night bar room music with tough drums, gutsy steel lovely piano flourishes, but it’s Moore’s voice you’ll be concentrating on. Killing Me Nice and Slow rocks up proceedings, upping the outlaw quota with a tale of empty whiskey bottles and ending relationships, while You Know the Rest switches to waltz-time, bringing the harmonica in to back to Spanish guitar and ringing steel; “I went to bed in a mansion, I woke up on the floor”.


Before you know it, side one is done. Mr Honky Tonk is a short album, but that works in its favour; it’s the same trick as the three minute 7” record, give them just enough to get them hooked, to keep them coming back. Its time to flip over to side two, and we’re back on the road with Texahio, albeit at a slower pace, as Dallas recounts his tale of relocating his woman form Ohio down to the Lone Star state – “Texas, I’m gonna sing my song for you”. Somewhere Between Bridges picks up the tempo a little, kicking off with a fiddle and we’re back in bar room territory again, plenty of crying guitar licks and a fiddle lamenting the state of this relationship, “somewhere between bridges, a million miles form being lost”. Kisses From You takes us straight to the end of a relationship; “I don’t need your hand-me-down heartache, I don’t need no second-hand blues”. We’re in  a world of resignation and acceptance, this is grown-up country music that knows that the pains of love and life are simply part of the journey, where the road takes you; “Freedom tastes sweet like the whiskey, but it burns like those kisses from you”. The closing track of the album, Shoot Out the Lights, ramps up the Southern rock side of Moore’s outlaw performance. Bringing in the backing singers for added Stones effect, this is pure roadhouse rock and has already become a Whiskey Preachin sure-spin, a braggadocio-piece well suited to closing out such an enjoyable ride of an album; “and I always deal in danger, I something deal in death, no I don’t mind the long white line but I can’t stand that meth”.


Dalls Moore

Dalls Moore


Moore was born and raised in Cincinnati, Ohio, just over the river form Kentucky, half way between DC and KC. In an interview with No Depression, Moore made the point that Cincinnati has a proud history in country music, with the Herzog studios having been responsible for such landmark recordings as Hank Williams’s rendition of Lovesick Blues and I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry, as well as Flatt and Scruggs’s Foggy Mountain Breakdown, known the world over from the soundtrack to Bonnie and Clyde. The Delmore Brothers's Freight Train Boogie was also recorded at Herzog Studios, helping make Cincinnati a recording center before Music Row, when Nashville was still a radio town. Getting to university on a jazz scholarship to study classical guitar, it wasn’t long before Moore was playing in country bands around the bars of Cincinnati. By 1991, Moore had released his first album, My Heroes Have Always Been Cowboys, staking his claim and pronouncing his right to follow the trail of Willie, Waylon and David Allen Coe. Since then, Moore has shared the stage supporting many of the greats of outlaw country and Southern rock, including Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard and later incarnations of The Allman Brothers Band and Lynyrd Skynyrd.



Mr Honky Tonk was recorded in Nashville, with a crack band of Music City session musicians brought together by producer Dean Miller (son of Roger), a talented song writer who worked with the great George Jones, and more recently with Jamey Johnson and Hank 3. Moore’s surprise upon walking into the studio to find such a pool of talent gathered for his session is refreshing; “ We walked in to the studio and saw all these incredible players lined up, I thought they were there to play with someone else!”. Luckily they were there to play with Dallas Moore on Mr Honky Tonk. The combination of such fine players and a talented and savvy producer worked to bring out the best in Moore’s songwriting and vocal performance, giving the album that extra something that separates a great record form all the rest. This one's staying in the record box for quite some time, believe me.

Tony Sexton

Brent Cobb


Providence Canyon

Low Country Sound/Elektra


Why do so many people slag off The Eagles? For some, maybe it is as simple as not liking their music. For others, I expect it is more complicated, that there are people who don’t dislike the music, but find it hard to like because of the influence and effect the bands success had, because of the number of times they have heard it on the radio, year after year. Everyone has an opinion, for better or worse, on Hotel California (which went 16 x platinum!), but you would have to be cold-blooded not to have a place in your heart for Take It Easy. So, maybe it’s not the songs themselves, but the dominating success the band achieved, and the perceived commercialism that can be attributed to that success, that puts some people off. But who can really blame a record label, or a band or producer, for that matter, for having a hit, for succeeding? The music business is just that, a business. No one enters the studio trying to make a flop. The Eagles's well-honed brand of country rock infused their music into the psyche of seventies California in a way most bands can only dream of. Times have changed, today's music buying public have a wider choice of styles and formats than ever before, but that doesn't mean someone won't come along to take today's Americana/country rock sound to a larger audience.

Georgia-born Brent Cobb has spent time living in LA, where he moved in 2006 to work on his first album with his producer cousin, Dave Cobb (another Georgian), and Shooter Jennings. A couple of years later Brent moved to Nashville to see if he could turn a dollar with his songs, initially working at a Walgreens developing snapshots of other people’s lives, strangely apt for a singer-songwriter. The proceeding decade saw Cobb sign with Carnival Music as a song writer (his songs recorded by Miranda Lambert, Kenny Chesney and The Oak Ridge Boys, among others) and record his second and, now, third solo albums.

Cobb’s new album, Providence Canyon, named after a local landmark in Georgia, was recorded in Nashville’s famous Studio A, since 2016 the home of Dave Cobb’s Low Country Sound imprint for Elektra. It is a record that feels familiar straight out of the gates; the opening incantation of pedal steel, the jangle of the high-strung guitar, the easy, sunny groove of the title track, Providence Canyon, leads to Cobb’s soft vocal delivery; “Why didn’t we think of this sooner?” Well, maybe somebody did, but let’s do it again.

The album rolls on through track after track of immaculately played and produced expressions of funky seventies-style country rock, and what’s not to like. As the album progresses, you might get a sense of déjà vu, as your brain is lit up by strains of Skynyrd (High in the Country has a hook not dissimilar to Sweet Home Alabama), JJ Cale (If I Don’t See Ya) or Little Feat (30.06 wouldn’t be out of place on Feats Don’t Fail Me Now). The tunes are catchy and well written, highly polished down-home nuggets of country souls and swampy Southern rock crying out for a cold beer and a barbecue. My favourite track, album closer Ain’t a Road Too Long, suggests Cobb may have been listening to the Bay Area’s Blackalicious, as his lazy Georgia delivery takes on a conscious MC style.

There is a familiarity and an immediacy to Providence Canyon that is sure to win over many a new fan to Cobb’s music, generating both commercial success and award nominations along the way. Brent Cobb’s last album, 2016’s Shine On Rainy Day (Low Country Sound), was nominated for a Grammy, while Dave Cobb, producer of both that album and this one, has won more awards than he can possibly know what to do with, including two Grammy wins each with both Jason Isbell and Chris Stapleton albums, as well as Grammy nominations with Sturgill Simpson’s Metamodern Sounds in Country Music and Jamey Johnson’s The Guitar Song.


You don’t have to be much of a profit to predict that Providence Canyon is going to be one of the biggest Americana albums of 2018. The interesting thing, from my perspective, will be to see what cross-over appeal the album has. It’s hard not to enjoy listening to Providence Canyon’s easy-going, good-time grooves, but I can’t help but wonder if the immediacy of this music may lead to it wearing thin all too quickly, as the ear starts to crave a bit more grit, guitars that dig in that bit more, songs with more pain and anguish, something that affords more danger - more smack, less Prozac. All said and done, Brent Cobb’s career is going places fast. Without doubt, we will be hearing his songs for years to come, as sure as we will be hearing the work of his super-producer cousin, Dave Cobb, the Mark Ronson of Americana.

Tony Sexton

Brent Cobb photographed by Don Van Cleave

Brent Cobb photographed by Don Van Cleave

Ben Bostick






Back in 2017 I interviewed Ben Bostick, the LA-Based, South Carolinian-raised Outsider country artist about his then new album, the eponymous Ben Bostick. No Depression described Ben’s performance on that album as coming on “like an unholy alliance of George Jones and Merle Haggard”; praise enough for any man, but I was convinced that Bostick might be capable of something even more incendiary, something to warn people about. It turns out I was right, so please take this review in the way it is meant, as a warning to impressionable minds and those of a fragile disposition. We wouldn’t want to offend anybody now, would we. Hellfire, Bostick’s new album, to be released at the end of June, gives us a glimpse of where he likes to venture with his music, down dark alleys full of human wreckage, to solicit or commit carnal musical acts.

The songs on Hellfire have been tried and tested by Bostick over the last year, using his band’s residency at a downtown LA bar, The Escondite, as the perfect opportunity to road-test new material. By the time the band went into the studio to record with John Would (Warren Zevon, Wanda Jackson), they were able to record the album live, sitting in a circle with just stage monitors to hear Bostick's vocals. Producer Would had extensively mic’d up the room, giving the recording an immediacy and energy that is at once primal and infections. The album opens with Bostick’s strained vocal searing out of the speaker, the sound of a man in pain; “I’ve got a job in the valley but today I didn’t go”, the story start, “I’m gonna go to the bank and cash out my account, drive straight to the tavern and drink a disgusting amount”. We know how you feel, Ben. Dirty rock and roll ensues, with a touch of Credence twang leading to some blistering guitar work (Kyle LaLone), building to a crescendo as Bostick’s story kicks back in with a flourish of Jerry Lee-style honky tonk piano (Luke Miller). The title track, Hellfire, plays next, opening with a dash of Burton-ish chicken pickin’ guitar, and before you know it Bostik’s getting drunk as hell again, this time on a bath tub of gin. The third track in, No Good Fool, uses the piano to full effect, barrel house boogie full of funky swagger, you can expect to be hearing it in our Whiskey Preachin DJ sets from now on.



The pressure keeps building as Bostick and the band crank up the tempo with Blow of Some Steam, coming on like a train wreck waiting to happen, good luck keeping up with this one on the dancefloor as Bostick declares he’s a Jim Beam drinking, Paycheck singing, dancing machine… Hell yeah! The tempo drops for the outsider’s lament on modern living, It Ain’t Cheap Being Poor, sounding like a hungry Rusty Weir desperately in need of a good cobbler. Tornado sounds like JJ Cale playing at a hoedown, The Other Side of Wrong combines a dash of Diddley with a flourish of that Jerry Lee piano, allowing Bostic to wallow in his righteously outlaw lyrics; “If I didn’t make bad decisions, I wouldn’t make no decisions at all”. Work, Sleep, Repeat gives us a little respite from the frantic boogie woogie onslaught, but that doesn’t mean it’s not packed with Bostick’s gravely grow and lashings of swagger, like Jim Morrison spliced and diced with Howlin’ Wolf; “Tonight I’m gonna drink like daddy does”. The Outsider closes out the album with the most straight-up rock track of the set, albeit one channelling a Jon Lord-style organ groove (, something we at Whiskey Preachin have always been partial to.

I asked Ben a few questions about his Hellfire, here’s what he had to say:

What has led you to the darker sound on this album? I wrote dozens of songs in the year leading up to recording this album, usually about one per week. I would bring the songs into the band for our Sunday night residency, and sometimes they would work right away and sometimes it was clear I had penned a real stinker. When it came time to record the album, I chose songs that all seemed to fit thematically, all from one perspective. I can’t say that I consciously wrote a darker album, so maybe the darkness had me without me knowing it. I’ve become more interested in writing albums than writing songs recently, so this is a baby step in the direction of putting together a fully cohesive album.

Any records you’ve been listening to that have influenced you in this direction? Honestly, not really. I try not to be influenced by records I’m listening to, because I just wind up copying the stuff I like. I was in a hardcore jazz listening period during the year I wrote this. Lots of hard bop, lots of Coltrane and Miles Davis. I was obsessed with forming a kind of improvised music that incorporated Americana elements with true musical freedom. Something that sounds like Astral Weeks, but less composed. I haven’t gotten around to trying any of those ideas yet. I was also listening to a lot of Springsteen. I don’t know why the songs that emerged are the way they are. Probably has more to do with me subconsciously writing for the venues I play. I’m not pandering to the crowd, per se, as much as seeing if I can whip them into a frenzy. That’s the Springsteen thing rearing its head. My next album is very Springsteen influenced.

Have you got a personal favorite from this album? I love them all, but my current favorite is “No Show Blues.” I think the recording of that song turned out just right. Just shot a music video for that one, too.

So, ladies and gentlemen, we give you Ben Bostick’s Hellfire, an album to show love and respect, especially at 4am when you stagger in form a heavy night on the town. If you find yourself in LA, see if you can catch one of the band’s live performances, or perhaps catch Ben spinning tunes at Shoo Shoo Baby, an LA bar that looks like something out of a Raymond Chandler novel. If you can play records in bars that look this good, I’m gonna move to California and see if Hollywood will have me.

Tony Sexton