I don’t pretend to be a bluegrass expert. I also don’t pretend to be entirely sober as I write this. But somehow, I think that Whiskey Shivers would approve of both of those conditions. In their recent album, Batholith, they tear through 11 songs in 28 minutes with the energy of a punk band. The only thing is that this is bluegrass through and through – banjo, guitar, stand-up bass, violin, and those high-and-lonesome harmonies. The energy is infectious, and you can’t help but enjoy the hell out of yourself while listening to this record.
First, the latter. Whiskey Shivers is a band that clearly supports getting loose and crazy. “Drunk Dial” not only contains some of the most romantic lyrics ever (“you’re the kind of girl I’d like to drunk dial”), but also an entertaining spoken-word section featuring a police officer, a school bus, and a guy named Stefon. “Wookie Boogers” expresses the singer’s dismay with heroin, but wholeheartedly endorses marijuana (though I still can’t figure out how to make sense of the chorus, “If you can’t trick the dog / trick the handler / you’ll be ridin’ high / and rollin’ free” – somebody please explain this to me). With songs like this, it might be easy to dismiss Whiskey Shivers as just another drugged-up newgrass band, but their sound is more than that.
Whiskey Shivers - Old Home Place
Now I know I said I’m not a bluegrass aficionado, but these guys are legit musicians. And a song like opener “Old Home Place” is classic bluegrass of the highest order. The lyrics have the regret and nostalgia that seems requisite in the best of the genre. “Salt Creek” demonstrates the extent of their instrumental chops as the music gradually speeds up over the course of the song until it’s a manic hoedown that would challenge even the most experienced square dancers. Ultimately, they incorporate all the best of various bluegrass subgenres into an exciting whirl of old-timey music that can appeal to even the most casual fan. If you have any proclivity toward bluegrass, please check out Whiskey Shivers. They’ll be playing tomorrow night at 8p.m. at Schatzelein on South First, or at 11:30 at the Slappa da Bass showcase at the Hole in the Wall. These are busy guys. Or you can check out all of Batholith at their bandcamp site.