This latest set of dates will mark the fourth visit to these shores in eighteen months for Whiskey Myers. Since making their UK debut in January 2016 opening for The Cadillac Three, the East Texans have graced festivals, completed their debut headlining tour, and are now back for an encore performance. The venues are getting larger, the crowds bigger, and the buzz growing. When their tour bus parked up outside the venue earlier on, news was breaking about the tragic death of Chris Cornell. Halfway through the evening, news was filtering through that Cornell had indeed taken his own life. At the merch stand, the bar, and of course, the last bastion of traditional debate, the men’s toilets, the overall feeling was one of disbelief.
The subdued atmosphere was still prevalent when Welsh outfit Buffalo Summer took the stage early on… very early, actually. So early that the beer gardens of the surrounding pubs were still overflowing with punters eager to catch some rays on a glorious evening. The band could be playing to a packed house for all they care, as they quickly set about rewarding those that chose a darkened room over a beer garden. Blues based, classic rock meets Southern rock with a UK tinge, that’s the order of the day. The short set is a mixture of tracks from recent album ‘Second Sun’ and the self titled debut from 2013. They’ve got some fans in the house tonight, as howls of delight greet fan favourite ‘Down To The River’. Audience participation is called for by vocalist Andrew Hunt, and he succeeds in getting the hands in the air. ‘Heartbreakin’ Floorshakin’’ from ‘Second Sun’ features some gorgeous riffs from Jonny Williams, who spends most of the set bathed in darkness in what must be one of the darkest venues that I’ve ever been in. By the time that their set comes to an end, the venue has started to fill up and the band exit to warm applause from way more fans than greeted their arrival.
The stage fills up as the six members of Whiskey Myers saunter on to the last few bars of the Rolling Stones intro tape. Expanded to a six piece for the live shows with the addition of percussionist Tony Kent. Not content to sit like the norm for a percussionist, Kent is a whirlwind to watch, a mass of hair, flared trousers and a cowbell… more of that to follow! Latest album, ‘Mud’, was released last year to incredible acclaim and live. The songs sound massive, as the band stretch them out… thankfully not to the Grateful Dead-like extent that the Black Crowes felt necessary. Their shows started to border on being marathons! Opener, ‘On The River’ is a perfect way to start the show, a slow, soft intro to the song before drummer Jeff Hogg brings the band in. Whiskey Myers are all about the guitars. It’s sheer heaven for six string aficionados, as the band number not one or two, but three superb guitar players amongst their ranks. Best exemplified by the incendiary playing on the title track of latest album ‘Mud’, guitarists Cody Tate and John Jeffers take turns to impress, while vocalist Cody Cannon proves that he hasn’t merely strapped on a Gibson just to look good. The heaviest track on the album, live, it’s intensity is ramped up to the max, as bassist Gary Brown combines with Jeff Hogg to bring the thunder. There is a surreal moment as the three guitarists all change guitars, meaning three crew members have to come on with new ones, it’s like in American football when the coach changes lineup depending on the play!
Chatter is kept to the minimum, with Cannon rarely speaking other than to thank the crowd on a few occasions, but with the back catalogue that these guys have at their disposal, who needs time-wasting banter? ‘Early Morning Shakes’, ‘Lightning Bugs And Rain’ and ‘Some Of Your Love’ all get the heads bobbing, the glasses raised skywards, and the asses shaking. Tate and Jeffers are incredible to watch as they regularly swap lead guitar duties. The best comparison I can make is with the famous film of Lynyrd Skynyrd playing ‘Freebird’ live at Knebworth 1976. The last five minutes of Allen Collins, Gary Rossington and Steve Gaines all trading licks as each tries to outdo the other is a timeless piece of musical history that still gives me goosebumps to this day. I get that same feeling with Whiskey Myers. These guys know what the guitar is for and don’t hold back. Cody Tate also provides sterling lead vocals on ‘Different Mold’, which shuffles along like a mean old one-eyed ‘gator. ‘Happy Gilmore’ was robbed for ‘best picture’ Oscar that year, dude. Robbed, I tell you!
The band’s ode to their birthplace, ‘Ballad Of A Southern Man’ is a sublime piece of songwriting and the band seem genuinely taken aback when the crowd sing it back to them. Well, the cider had kicked in by then. After nearly ten minutes of jaw-dropping guitar playing, which featured some sweet slide action from Jeffers, the band crash into ‘Home’. Midway through the song, Tony Kent leaps his bass drum and takes control as he unleashes… a cowbell solo! I’m talking full on, swinging legs like a loon, no holds barred, going for it big time. Imagine Will Ferrell’s famous skit, but a thousand times more manic and without the belly dancing. If ever there was a night that needed some light relief then it was tonight. The passing of Cornell was marked by a tribute from Cannon before the band launched into ‘Stone’… “One of the best damn singers in the world, Mr Chris Cornell” A heartfelt tribute to go with a heartfelt and genuine song, one of the many highlights from ‘Mud’.
A fantastic way to end a horrible day. We’ve lost so many heroes over the last few years, but this one pulled the carpet out from under everyone’s feet. Music heals everything, and Whiskey Myers pulled a blinder out of the hat. This band deserves every damn plaudit coming their way.
Review: Dave Stott
Images: Dave Jamieson