Not since the debut from Lone Justice, featuring a barely legal Maria McKee, has there been a blast of country infused with punk rock energy like Atlanta band The Whiskey Gentry. Guitarist Jason Morrow’s roots in South Carolina punk and hardcore don’t necessarily show up in the sonic architecture of the band’s latest, Holly Grove, but the attitude and breakneck pace of songs such as “Colly Davis” and “One Night In New York” mirror the kind of raucous waves produced by Social Distortion, X, and others in those pre-alt country days.
The Whiskey Gentry is probably more country than most of the Billboard Country Singles chart, however, making this a patchwork quilt (or maybe that should be a cross stich, like the album cover mimics) of classic country, 70’s country-rock, and bluegrass that should appeal to multiple genre afficionados.
Lauren Staley’s vocal presence is what the band’s sound is built around, just as McKee centered the sometimes scattershot output of Lone Justice. Staley is a gutsy, deep well of emotion and emotive delivery who would have fit right in with Loretta Lynn in her most rebellious years. “Oh Me,” positions her in a dependent relationship, but she handles the opposite feeling of ‘Screw you’ just as capably in “Here’s Your Song,” a classic country kiss-off in the tradition of Kitty Wells. (be sure and stick around for the unlisted bonus track, a beautiful Emmylou Harris circa Nash Ramblers style take on Procol Harum’s “A Whiter Shade of Pale”).
The band is spot-on throughout, whether swinging hard country twang or barreling through a proto-punkgrass arrangement, and their live show reputation holds up remarkably well in this more controlled studio environment.
Check out the video for opening track “I Ain’t Nothing” below: