Loud and proud, they sing about what they know with a refreshing directness and clarity. Some call it rebel music, but it’s more like everyday soul. Their songs are stories, with relatable characters and situations. Stories of celebration, of mourning, of trials and triumph. Through the quality of these songs, and the band’s undeniable power in concert and on record, Whiskey Myers has attracted a devoted army of outspoken fans who pack venues, sing the band’s praises online, and continue to make them a growing word-of-mouth sensation.
And now, they stand poised to unleash the thrilling Early Morning Shakes upon the world. Available on February 4, 2014 through the band’s own Wiggy Thump imprint, their latest full-length was recorded with noted producer Dave Cobb (whose credits include Jamey Johnson, Jason Isbell, and both Waylon and Shooter Jennings) and represents the culmination of years of dedication, experimentation, and refinement. Visceral and dynamic, the album’s 12 songs encompass an impressive range of perspectives and emotions – while finding the band’s musicianship honed to a razor’s edge. And though Early Morning Shakes is a great step forward creatively, it’s an organic one. As guitarist John Jeffers explains, “Staying true to ourselves and to our music has gotten us to the point we’re at. We really wanted to continue on that same track.”
The collaboration with Cobb became a vital partnership, essential to Early Morning Shakes’ edgy yet accessible sound. “I have to credit Dave for creating a natural, relaxed recording atmosphere,” says drummer Jeff Hogg. “It allowed us to be comfortable, creative, and to better express ourselves. Plus, his experience mixing country and rock in his production works perfectly for us.” One listen to the lacerating title track – “The coolest song we haveever done,” beams lead singer and principal songwriter Cody Cannon – makes very clear that Cobb was an ideal choice to harness the band’s growing power and confidence. Although always unabashed, the soul of Whiskey Myers comes through clearer than ever on Early Morning Shakes,from the disarming tenderness of “Shelter from the Rain” to the winking rabble rousing on display in their version of outlaw forefather David Allen Coe’s “Need a Little Time Off for Bad Behavior.” It’s that rare album that promises to enthrall the band’s vocal, devoted fanbase while enticing new listeners. And it couldn’t come at a better time…
Whiskey Myers’ last record, Firewater, was released in the spring of 2011, and enjoyed a remarkable run on the Texas Music Charts that culminated with its third single “Anna Marie” reaching #1. Airplay success has led to larger and larger crowds, with the band now selling out 1,000-capacity venues with ease – and delivering stadium-sized shows grounded in the sincerity and unpretentious, fun-loving energy of their bar-band roots. “Our fans always tell us how much they get out of seeing us play,” says Cannon, “but it’s a two-way street: We get something, too. They inspire us to dedicate ourselves more and more to our music and our sound. And it sure feels like it’s paying off.”
As their chemistry onstage and in the studio reflect, Whiskey Myers is a brotherhood. The five members cut their teeth together, honing their chops side-by-side from an early age. Hailing from Neches, Texas, Cannon was given an acoustic guitar by his “wild-ass biker” (Cody’s words) grandpa, and guitarist John Jeffers’s dad taught them both the rudiments of the instrument. A job at a sporting goods store introduced Cannon to future Whiskey Myers lead guitarist Cody Tate, forming the songwriting core of the band. Upon moving to Tyler, Texas, they picked up drummer Jeff Hogg and enlisted Cannon’s cousin Gary Brown on bass—even though he’d never played the instrument before.
What came next was a blur of gigs, songs, struggles, and victories: With each show, their natural bond as friends continued to grow into a formidable musical telepathy, and with each song they composed, their innate gifts as craftsmen were honed further. The resultant sound, taken to its apex on Early Morning Shakes, is hard-driving and immediate, steeped in the rich legacy of southern rock. Often reduced to a one-dimensional stereotype, the kind of music that inspired Whiskey Myers—artists like Lynyrd Skynyrd, the Allman Brothers, and Hank Williams, Jr.—is actually multifaceted and inventive, drawing from country, R&B, psychedelic rock, and stringband traditions.
In that tradition, Whiskey Myers are grand southern eclectics, pulling in an array of influences and seamlessly mingling them. Listeners can pick up traces of everything from grunge to rockabilly in the course of a set, united by Cannon’s soulfully heartfelt singing and Brown and Hogg’s solid, supple foundation. On top of it all, Tate and Jeffers intertwine their leads, soaring in harmony one moment, darting around one another in intricate improvisations the next. Sure, they’re rousing—just cue up “Hard Row to Hoe” or “Where the Sun Don’t Shine” from Early Morning Shakes for a dose of pile-driver intensity. But their range is wide and expanding, as is evidenced by the inclusion of moving, thoughtful reflections like “Reckoning” and the elegantly arranged “Colloquy.”
In Whiskey Myers’ world, nothing is off-limits. Nothing is too personal, too sensitive, or too controversial to embrace and explore. Theirs is a confidence born of a long-standing brotherhood—a closeness that few groups can rival. That closeness even extends to their road crew, whose first two members were a cousin and childhood friend of Cannon and Jeffers. “Well we all grew up together,” bassist Brown explains. “We’re two sets of cousins. Some of us have been friends since we were two or three years old.”
Cannon picks up the thread immediately, adding “Plus, after six years together, you know each other through and through. We know who we are, and try our best to stay true to ourselves and to our music.