Last year, Whiskey Shivers released their debut album, Batholith. It was loose, fun and musically accomplished, speaking to bluegrass’ history while looking toward its future. Their latest release, Rampa Head, continues the group’s musical evolution, cementing Whiskey Shivers as the preeminent bluegrass group in Austin. There are surely other fantastic bluegrass bands out there right now (Clyde & Clem’s Whiskey Business and Wood & Wire jump to mind immediately), but Whiskey Shivers is on a roll. On Rampa Head, they get a bit more serious than on their previous material, while still retaining their signature senes of humor.Whiskey Shivers - 'WTD'
The standout track in my mind is “WTD” – short for “Win the Day.” It’s a chipper pep talk set to an uptempo bluegrass groove that is expertly written. It fits into the other contemporary bluegrass I’ve heard, while standing out for its memorable melody and good lyrics. In fact, throughout the record, there’s an evident maturity in songwriting and song choice. A song like “Jealous Heart,” for example, wouldn’t have fit in as nicely on Batholith – it’s darker than anything on that record and would have tempered its unbridled fun. Here, though, it complements the wider range of emotion. These boys are growing up, and the music reflects that.
And as a huge fan of cool covers, I have to call out “Medley.” Whiskey Shivers begins with a sped-up cover of “All I Want is You” by Barry Louis Polisar and transition right into “Holy Roller Novocaine” from Kings of Leon’s debut album. Both are originals I love, and the Kings of Leon one especially is an inspired choice. The original shows no sign of translating into a great bluegrass number, and yet Shivers makes it sound as natural as any other song here. Interestingly, they choose to end the album with “Wapita Wapita” – a tejano-influenced waltz number, complete with horns and Spanish lyrics. It sounds nothing like any other Whiskey Shivers song ever, but indicates that these guys are ready and willing to tackle anything.
The photo slideshow above is from Whiskey’s CD release party at the Parish last week (thanks to Samantha Perry from Austin Fresh Photography for those great pictures!). They are an absolute must-see live band; come ready to have a great time. You can pick up the CD at their website or at Waterloo Records, where it is currently nestled comfortably within their Top 50.