Sterling Heights,Michigan(May 21,2022)- Ever since Lynyrd Skynyrd sang the praises of Sweet Home Alabama, southern-fried American rock bands have been defending their turf. Actually, Whiskey Myers comes from Texas, but they are, as they admit, “steeped in and influenced by the traditions of the south.” That goes for their extracurricular activities as much as their music which is mostly hard and heavy steeped with country and blues licks, wrapped with a healthy dose of R&B. If that gets your blood flowing you would have been right at home Saturday at the Michigan Lottery Amphitheatre at Freedom Hill as Whiskey Myers Is a Comin’ tour touched down in the suburb of Detroit,Michigan.
Whiskey Myers set the tone of the night from the hit, kicking off the evening with “John Wayne,” a cut off their forthcoming LP Tornillo, revving the audience up with its layered guitar line and resonating vocals by the unabashed frontman of the group Cody Cannon. Cannon’s unassuming style belays a powerful soul-filled southern rock voice that is both at home on cuts such as the early in the set “Gasoline,” or the lost love on the blues heavy “Broken Window Serenade.” Make no mistake though,as good Cannon is as a frontman this band operates as a total unit. The five other members consist of percussionist and keyboardist Tony Kent, drummer Jeff Hogg, bassist Jamey Gleaves, guitarist John Jeffers, and guitar/lap/slide player Cody Tate. Jeffers and Tate also handle lead vocals on select songs that lends credence to the versatilty of the group as a unit.
The 18 song setlist Saturday made evident to from whom the group takes inspiration. From the reference to Charlie Daniels’ anthem “Simple Man” in their song “Ballad of a Southern Man,” to the Allman-Betts-like jamming on fan favorite “Early Morning Shakes,” it is clear where this Texas-bred band gets its ingredients. But those ingredients combine to form something different. Whiskey Myers has not had the hard-lived life of the Charlie Daniels band,nor are they as self-obsessed with their own playing as Betts and company (who can drag out a song for dozens of minutes). No, they represent something different in southern rock. They are a new wave of rock traditionalists who have created an addictively new sound that still treds down the path forged by their predecessors.
Perhaps that newness can be found in the hooks and extended runs of their music or even the story telling lyrics. Each song has its own character and direction that is driven by a distinctive groove, allowing the fans to recognize each cut within notes of its start. It is this addictively listenable sound that has steadily grown the group’s fanbase over the years. Take for instance the cut “Deep Down South,” made famous by the Paramount Network series, talks of a farmer wanting to stay on his land. While “Die Rockin” is told from the point of view, “Raised on field holler with the spirit in my bones I turned 15, I was lost to the Pentecost…..I’m gonna rock until I die, I’m gonna die rockin’.” Conversely, Whiskey Myers doesn’t strictly rely on rock & roll, but it’s their stock in trade and for deciding that the right spot in the rollicking setlist for a song as sleazy as “Bitch,” that would be the perfect end of the night momentum builder. This may be a bit of a reach to the Whiskey Myer purists but the group gets by on sheer muscle, barreling through with heavy blues and grinding guitars, and catching their breath on open-highway tunes and back-porch ballads that correlates with their connection to country music.
In a final burst of energy for the run to the finish, Whiskey Myers cut loose with a killer rendition of everyones favorite cut “Stone,” that featured the bluesy vocals of Cody Cannon leading the way into an extended jam where each member gets the spotlight for a fleeting moment. A highlight of that mini jam session had fans scrambling to get their phones out of their pockets to capture the fantastic dueling guitar solos by Cody Tate and John Jeffers. If that wasn’t enough to send the locals home happy, special guests Goodbye June along with Shane Smith and the Saints joined in a freestyle take on a cover of the Tom Petty classic “Refugee,” putting an exclamation on one of the most memorable opening night shows in recent years.
The crowd tonight at Freedom Hill showed up knowing every word to every song played during the one hour and 40 minute set, which itself is a testament to Whiskey Myers diverse appeal. As the band continues to deepen their catalog of unmistakable southern rock, there is no doubt they will gather more and more legions of fans who cling to every word and note. With the new album Tornillo only a few weeks away, new fans are sure to follow and future shows like tonight will become legendary. Maybe in twenty years the whole world might be singing “Ballad of a Southern Man” in the same context as we do “Simple Man,”today. The ironic part is their devoted fans already do.
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