Alison Dewar writes: It’s been three years since SSC founder Mark Wiggins and serious WM fan wrote his glowing review of the band’s 2019 self-titled album Whiskey Myers, giving it an impressive 9/10.
He wasn’t alone. It achieved 41,000 first week album sales and made best-of-the-year lists from Billboard and No Depression, amongst many more plaudits.
A lot has happened since then – aside from the obvious – and this time round it falls to me to review the band’s brand-new album out this Friday (July 29).
Given the acclaim the preview single releases have already notched up, the self-produced Tornillo promises much from this genre-blending band. And they certainly give good value, three of the songs are over 5 minutes long and the others aren’t far behind.
Around halfway through a US-wide tour and having sold more than 1.2 million albums and amassed over 1.5 billion streams while earning four RIAA Gold and Platinum certifications, it’s clear that WM is on a winning streak.
Let’s get down to business
First a disclaimer: I must confess to being something of a newbie in the Whiskey Myers stakes (don’t judge) so the question is, has it left my glass half empty or brimming over with enthusiasm?
Lead singer Cody Cannon describes the new album as “a little bit different sound, but still Whiskey Myers at its core”. He’s written or co-written all but two tracks – calling on his bandmate collaborators Jamey Gleaves and Tony Kent on John Wayne, and rising singer/songwriter Aaron Raitiere on Mission to Mars.
Lead guitarist John Jeffers steps up as solo writer for Whole World Gone Crazy and Heavy On Me, each bringing a different vibe to this most eclectic collection.
Named for the US/Mexico border town where it was recorded, Tornillo seems to have soaked up flavours from the air around it. You’ll see what I mean…
It draws as much inspiration from heavy rock as it does from gospel, adding an old rock n roll vibe and classic Motown, yet somehow it works.
The band has indulged itself with bass and horns and none more so on the opening (and title) track. Forty-seven seconds of pure instrumental wonder – keep a virtual lookout for the cowboys about to ride over the hill as it conjures up those great western movies of the past.
There’s something of a theme going on here, what with John Wayne being the second track and Bad Medicine (makes me think of Doc Holliday in Gunfight at the O.K. Corral) coming in at number nine. But I digress.
I think when they wrote this album the band had something of a crystal ball. Check out the chorus lyrics of John Wayne: “I’m just out in the shade watching the world go up in flames.”
One verse reads:
California’s burning, it’s snowing in the pines
They say the world is ending, well, maybe it’s about time
Have we forgot about the children? Forgot about love?
Have we forgot about forgiveness from the good Lord up above?
Right now, as I write this, California is burning…and it’s not alone…see what I mean about that crystal ball. I think this one will resonate with a lot of people. Wait too, for the official video on Friday.
The album isn’t afraid to tackle difficult issues – domestic violence (Antioch), family break-ups For The Kids (all 5 minutes 38 of it) – one thing’s for sure, this album ain’t no pop country party, you can feel that pain…
It’s not all doom and gloom though, if you’re looking for something to lighten the load and get those toes tapping, check out Feet’s – lovin’ this one – while Heavy On Me strips it back with a gentler guitar sound and the story of a young man coming to terms with the responsibilities of being a family man.
By the way, I challenge anyone (or at least those old enough) not to think Classical Gas (if you know, you know) at the 15 second point on this track.
Back to those John Jeffers’ tracks. Whole World Gone Crazy slows it down a little, it’s less frantic and there’s some great guitar work. And hey, it’s back to that theme again – but don’t go thinking this is an anthem for the planet or anything quite so woke. Mission to Mars changes the tempo nicely.
Hard-rocking The Wolf is probably the nearest throwback to the last album – the angry man, a fantastic guitar riff and more of those signature horns – but Bad Medicine is in there too. For me one of the standout tracks, how could you not love lyrics that talk of a ‘cold, cold heart and a black magic mind’. We’re not talking good ol’ Doc Holliday, think more poisonous relationship with some incredible instrumentals thrown in for good measure.
Penultimate track Other Side treads the hard rock path again but when you really listen to the lyrics it’s the story of a father sharing life’s lessons…’one day I won’t be around, I was happy with the life I found’. Would love to hear a stripped down acoustic version of this.
This really is an album of two (unequal) halves in terms of hard rock songs and softer love stories and – whether deliberate or not – they have done exactly as they did on the last album and saved the last track for their most tender moments.
Heart of Stone is an absolute stunner of a story about learning to love, accepting the things you can’t change and recognising the need to carry on with a heart of stone and calloused hands. Just Cody and his guitar…simplicity and peace.
I have to confess, this was a bit of a slow burn for me (much like the way the whiskey hits the back of your throat) but then again, I could say – they had me at Tornillo.
Favourites: Bad Medicine and Heart of Stone
Tornillo is due for release on Friday, July 29, via the band’s own Wiggy Thump Records with distribution by Thirty Tigers. Pre-order / pre-save the album HERE
For the most up-to-date information on the forthcoming album and all tour dates, visit www.WhiskeyMyers.com and follow on social media @WhiskeyMyers.
- John Wayne (Cody Cannon, Jamey Gleaves, Tony Kent)
- Antioch (Cody Cannon)
- Feet’s (Cody Cannon)
- Whole World Gone Crazy (John Jeffers)
- For The Kids (Cody Cannon)
- The Wolf (Cody Cannon)
- Mission To Mars (Cody Cannon, Aaron Raitiere)
- Bad Medicine (Cody Cannon)
- Heavy On Me (John Jeffers)
- Other Side (Cody Cannon)
- Heart Of Stone (Cody Cannon)