BOOZE: LOW SHELF BOURBON

Thus far, Romeo has been the only contributor to the Booze portion of the website and he’s done a fine job of it. Typically, Romeo writes about those $35+ bottles of whiskey….you know, the good shit. Well, since I’ve lived the bulk of 2011 without knowing what percentage of pay I might receive and if my company would exist at all in 2 weeks, I’ve become well versed in the sub-$15 a bottle variety of whiskey, so I figured I’d pen a quick piece about that.

Now, while most of the booze Romeo writes about needs to (and should) be drank neat, or if you insist on a mixer, over ice, the swill I am writing about needs a heavier (more sugary) mixer. Personally, I prefer ginger ale or tonic. Now, I know I typed tonic and you scrinched your nose, stuck out your tongue and went “ugh”, but trust me, tonic is a good (and lighter) whiskey mixer (especially for late morning/early afternoon drinking), so don’t knock it ‘til you’ve tried it. I mean, until eaten, who would have thought a peanut butter and syrup sandwich was a good idea? Here are some of the better whiskeys I’ve found on the bottom shelf:

Well Whiskey: When you go to a bar it’s a simple game. “Well” is cheaper, “call” is more expensive. If you’re in a high end bar, the well might be Jim Beam but if you order a Beam and Ginger then your ass will be charged for a “call”. In a dive bar, “well” is two steps above the “call” that some rich dude pisses out of his over-abused bladder the next morning. That said, I’ve found that if you’re willing to just stick to whatever they’re serving as “well” and not drink anything else the rest of the night not only will you get drunk on the cheap, you’ll avoid the dreaded hangover.

Jim Beam: Okay, honestly, this doesn’t deserve to be in this article but I included it for one reason….most Jack Daniels drinkers don’t understand the differences between Kentucky Bourbon and Tennessee Whiskey. Nope, they’re all, “Wha? I got a JD shirt and Lynyrd had a JD themed shirt. It’s all brown and sour mashed and thus the same thing.” These people don’t appreciate nuance and are the type to call grilling “barbecuing”. In reality, Jim Beam is the king of the bottom shelf and while, yes, you can drink it over ice; you really don’t want to. However, the simple fact that you can means it’s earned the crown as the king of the low shelf bourbon.

However, there does come a time when even $14 for a bottle of Beam is tough to justify, and once that time comes, what do you do? You’re looking at this bottom rung of names and labels you don’t know. Some might be good, but most are probably turpentine with food coloring. Well, I’m here to help you since I’ve gone through them all. Some really are turpentine with food coloring (I’m looking at you, Old Grandad), but a lot of them are really good, albeit young, and lacking the nuance that their 7 year and older barrel-aged brethren have.

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VIDEO VAULT FRIDAY:

Back in May a collection of fortunate circumstances led to a few of my favorite bands being in town for Tropical Heatwave on the same weekend as my birthday so I decided to throw a birthday party/concert. The resulting videos are from later that night when we were drinking whiskey back at the ninebullets compound. I’ll apologize now for shaky cameras and the dark video but as is documented quite often in the videos…..we were quite drunk.

Enjoy:

Devon Stuart – Savannah Rain:

Ricky Kendall – Old Man Blues:

Michael Claytor, Devon Stuart and Ricky Kendall – She Gets Away:

Ricky Kendall – Unknown Song:

Michael Claytor, Devon Stuart and Ricky Kendall – Unknown Song:

ROWAN'S CREEK – A SMALL BATCH BOURBON


When AIV mentioned an afternoon thunderstorm drinking session in his recent review of Bethany Saint-Smith & The Black Oil Brothers it made want to pull out the emergency bourbon! It also made me remember I had a whiskey review I hadn’t done yet that needed to be taken care of forthwith. You see I had this particular whiskey some month’s back and while it hasn’t replaced my house whiskey it was a damn nice find that I purchased more than once.

Rowan’s Creek Bourbon is named for the creek that runs through the distillery, aged in charred oak barrels and bottled at 101 proof but those are just technical details. This is not a bourbon for lightweights. It has all the qualities I love in a good whiskey and then some. It starts off smooth and it burns on the way down like whiskey ought to do. It’s not a painful burn but just enough to let you know you drank something that wasn’t made for children. Over the course of a drink you’ll get hints of vanilla, a heavy oak, and some spice. Others have found peanuts in the flavor but I haven’t and really don’t see where they get it. Even with the burn the overall flavor is a mellow drink. Let me stress that this isn’t a mixing whiskey. If you want mix whiskey, as I am wont to do sometimes, then don’t buy Rowan’s Creek as it is just too good to sully with anything aside from a splash of water or a very small piece of ice. It is a over 100 proof so don’t let that creep on you because it can and will. It doesn’t go down like a 100 proof bourbon but more like an 80 proof and while that’s a great thing you can get a little more rowdy than you set out to if you ain’t careful. For me that’s never a bad thing but I like to give fair warning. In closing I can promise you that your money won’t be wasted on a bottle of Rowan’s Creek.

ROCK REPORT: SLOBBERBONE @ THE CONTINENTAL CLUB, HOUSTON, TEXAS

Friday night I had a religious experience. I got to see Slobberbone play live. Let me clearly state that what I saw on Friday night was the best rock show I have seen in recent history, bar none! Brent Best and company could have easily been teaching school on how to put on a rock show. Every piece of the show was fluid between the band members but the music was as raw as rock is supposed to be. I realized just how amazing the night was going to be when the band pulled out “Lumberlung”, the third song of the set, and played it with all the emotion that it deserved and as the audience wailed along with the band there was an energy that even the yuppies trying to booty dance (no I am not kidding) couldn’t manage to fuck up. Brent ended the song with “Thanks for singing along you sensitive bastards” and launched right into the next song. Whiskey flowed freely and even yours truly ponied up for a round for the band and just about everybody standing close by. Over the course of the night, I gave up trying to keep track of the setlist, I felt all of my recent apathy about the scene fading away. This show reminded me of why I started going to shows in the first place and why I love music as much as I do. I honestly felt like was eighteen and seeing music through un-jaded eyes again.

After the show I got to sit outside with Brent and Jess in the moist gulf coast heat that seems ever present in Houston and just shoot the breeze. I didn’t pull out a pad and pen and try to take notes or conduct an interview as I am known to do. Instead, we talked about life, music, and all sorts of random shit. We even talked about getting Engine Joe turned in to a karaoke track at some point. Talking to Brent I got the feeling that crowds and shows like this in small venues with a sea of whiskey is the reason that Slobberbone started making music and I, for one, appreciate that point of view. As far getting to see them any time soon in your town; they’re trying to keep the touring to an absolute minimum for the moment as they work on a new album so you’re unlikely to get to see them in your town in the next little while (BOO!) but the upshot is they are working on a new record (YAY!).

In closing I have to say that while I may have been in a sort of funk regarding music lately and maybe even a little burned out that I am now renewed and it’s thanks to Slobberbone. From the opening riffs of the show to the cover of “I Got Drunk” to the wailing rendition of “Billy Pritchard” to the encore there wasn’t a single moment when I wanted to be anywhere else. And while Brent may threaten to “Dunk You In The River” he truly baptized that crowd on Friday night in pure rock n roll and did so with a smirk on face and guitar in his hands.

(I know the pics aren’t my usual quality but I didn’t grab the camera on my way out the door so that’s all I managed to get that was even visible on my phone.)

Since I don’t have any equipment to record shows you’ll have to make do with these tracks from Slobberbone’s “Last Show” before the recent reunion.

Slobberbone – Lumberlung
Slobberbone – Billy Pritchard
Slobberbone – I’ll Be Damned
Slobberbone – Dunk You In The River

Slobberbone Official Website
Slobberbone on Facebook
Slobberbone on Wikipedia

THE ROCK REPORT: JEREMY STEDING AND THE BAND OF BASTARDS @ GOODE'S ARMADILLO PALACE – HOUSTON, TEXAS 12-03-09

Some days things just work together. While I was writing up the review of A Damn Good Ride I dropped by Jeremy Steding’s website to look for his bio and such and found out he was playing in town that night. I grabbed a phone number off the site, made a call, and set up some time with him before the show. As luck would have it and one thing leading to another I wasn’t as early as I wanted to be but since it was a Thursday night show there wasn’t an opening act and there was still plenty of time to meet The Band of Bastards and get to know them before the show. And a damn fine show it was…

Jeremy Steding
(In case you’re wondering that is a Jason Isbell shirt on the Eric.)

What I learned is a that Jeremy is originally from Florida and came west to Austin in 2007 with an unmastered, unreleased “Whiskey Songs and Prison Songs” to pursue music in the Red Dirt scene. Having been inspired by old Pat Green (before he went Nashville), Cory Morrow, Robert Earl Keen and the like he figure Austin was the place to be if he wanted to play his kind of music.
I know our gracious host would disagree, being a huge fan of the Florida music scene and rightfully so, but Jeremy made his trek and is now making his mark on Red Dirt Music. One of the highlights of the night was finding out that Jeremy is fan and friend of Pete and Larry from Truckstop Coffee. Those boys are perennial 9B favourites and it’s always nice to find other fans.

Jeremy is at a point in his career that he says many never make it past. He’s playing decent venues and getting decent turnouts but intimates it’s fairly easy to get stuck there for a good long while and some folks can’t handle what seems like being in a rut. He handles most of his own booking, all of his merch, all of the publicity pretty much managing himself and the Band of Bastards. He uses all of the standard methods today such as twitter, myspace, facebook, and so on to get the word out about his music and his shows all while giving away his recorded music on his website. He and the band have a sponorship from Budweiser and they are touring hard. He says he loves the work and doesn’t mind all the time it takes to self manage. I did ask him specifically about giving away the albums on the website and he explained that while they sell a good number of CDs at shows that he wanted more people to discover his music. He thinks that people don’t buy as many CDs as they used to because of worrying about the investment. What if the CD sucks? So he put both albums for free, gives out business cards everywhere he goes that tell people where to go to download it, has a donate button if you want to toss a couple bucks his way, and still sells just as many plastic shiny discs at shows. And it’s working. More and more people are hearing his music and coming to shows. And that’s where Jeremy Steding and the Band of Bastards really shine…

Jeremy Steding And let me tell you: These boys can tear up a stage. I liked the album and that’s pretty clear from my review but seeing them live is just damn good. It’s not as big a difference as Cory Branan’s live vs. his studio work but it is something that has to be seen to be believed. Jeremy is a showman for sure and he pulls in the audience without even trying. He’s still young so the show isn’t as polished as some of the old timers but whether it’s belting out his original songs are having a little fun with classic covers like You Never Call Be By My Name whilst claiming it was written by “…a friend of a friend of a friend of my dad’s” on Canadian bacon in eyeliner you can tell that Jeremy is doing what he loves and the Band of Bastards is having as much fun as he is. And when I say he gets the audience involved I mean the isn’t above calling out the drunk birthday girl to help out with The Boys From Oklahoma.

They're too damn skinny and way too long...
…they’re too damn skinny and way too long…

In closing you shouldn’t miss the chance to see this Florida boy turned Texan play a live show. With a band that cites influences ranging from Truckstop Coffee to Jason Isbell you certainly could do worse. And as far as the more country and western shows go I am not sure you could do better these days.

The Band of Bastards is:

  • Matt Winegardner – Drums
  • Eric Smith – Bass
  • Steve James – Lead Guitar

You can see the full gallery from the show over at romeosidvicious.com .

Here’s some tracks off of Jemery’s first album since I don’t have any live tracks (except the one from this album) from him just yet:

Jeremy Steding – Bonnie Blue
Jeremy Steding – Auburn
Jeremy Steding – The Day to Day, Today (Live)

And the Boys From Oklahoma…

Jason Boland – The Boys From Oklahoma

Jeremy Steding Official Site
Jeremy Steding on MySpace
Jeremy Steding on Facebook
Jeremy Steding on Twitter
Jeremy Steding on YouTube

WORKS PROGRESS ADMINISTRATION – WPA

WPA

With the word “collective” bringing images of hippies and the faint scent of patchouli to mind I wouldn’t normally jump on a band that defines themselves as such however if you start tossing around names like Glen Phillips and Sean Watkins I start putting aside preconceptions and take notice. Tell me they just released an album and you’ll get me excited. Well that’s just what’s happened. Works Progress Administration has released WPS. I can’t figure out how to describe Works Progress Administration so I’ll just them do it in their own words:

WPA is an expandable collective, with Luke Bulla (Lyle Lovett), Sean Watkins (Nickel Creek) and Glen Phillips (Toad the Wet Sprocket) at its core.

We will usually appear as a 5 piece (listed as Core Band on the tour page), but whenever possible we will have 7 or 8 people (Expanded Band). All configurations will kick ass.

WPA is:

  • Glen Phillips (Toad the Wet Sprocket) – vocals, guitar
  • Sean Watkins (Nickel Creek, Fiction Family) – guitar, vocals
  • Luke Bulla (Jerry Douglas Band, Lyle Lovett) – fiddle, vocals, guitar

Executive Board Members:

  • Sara Watkins (Nickel Creek) – fiddle, vocals
  • Benmont Tench (Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers) – piano, organ
  • Greg Leisz (Joni Mitchell, Bill Frisell) – pedal steel
  • Pete Thomas (Elvis Costello and the Imposters) – drums
  • Davey Faragher (Elvis Costello and the Imposters, Cracker) – bass

Audio Archivist:

  • Jim Scott (Wilco, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Rolling Stones)

Yeah…so the concept of having an executive board for a band eludes me completely and I don’t even want to try and wrap my head around music made by committee. What I do know is that this album is good. It’s an album that will have a place in my rotation for a long time. It doesn’t come out of the back room and hit you in the head with a baseball bat to get you to take notice. It’s more like the girl next door that you didn’t notice for years and then one day you didn’t remember not noticing her. At least that’s how it happened for me. I shoved it in my rotation at work the day I got it and never paid it much attention. Then one day I noticed I was singing one of the tracks while I was walking to my truck and it hit me: “That’s a damn good album!” So I dug it out of the playlist and gave it a good listen and was amazed. I think that’s the way it had to happen.

I guess the concept of a musical collective isn’t all that far-fetched even for me for instance I used to love Pigface back in the day but something about the way this album is put together is just right. You can tell these are seasoned artists and their chemistry can’t be denied. It’s not my usual whiskey sodden fare for review but it’s a strong album that won’t leave you disappointed. You can pick this one up over at the WPA website and I highly reccommend that you do. Pick it up and just drop it into your random shuffle and you won’t be disappointed. Meanwhile enjoy a couple-a-three tracks off of WPA:

Works Progress Administration – A Wedding Or A Wake
Works Progress Administration – Remember Well
Works Progress Administration – The Price

AMANDA BLANK – I LOVE YOU


We talk about a lot of serious musicians pouring their guts out on lots of sad songs around here. It’s the kind of music I think needs the press and the attention, but sometimes a person needs something a little lighter.

When I got the news that my paycheck was being reduced by an as of yet, unknown amount I dealt with it the only way I know how; whiskey and humor. The next morning, upon returning to work, I was the one who needed to reach for something lighter so I queued up Amanda Blank’s debut album, I Love You.

I’ve been rocking this album off and on for a few months now and even though it is far from the standard 9b fare I’ve had it on my list of albums to write about for just as long. I Love You is a rap (notice I did not say hiphop)/dance/club album along the lines of M.I.A. or Santigold that manages to also be hyper-sexual w/o being as annoying as Peaches. It features all the usual suspects you would expect; Diplo, Switch, Spank Rock! as well as Santigold. Some of the more interesting tracks are the LL Cool J remake/remix of “I Need Love”, the pure 80’s mall pop sound of “Shame On Me” and the complete early 90’s industrial club stylings of “Make Up” but it’s the nothing spectacular but catchy as hell meat of the album such as “Something Bigger, Something Better” and “Gimmie What You Got” that keep me reaching for the cd over and over.

So, if you suddenly find yourself in need of something that’s heavy on gas and light on substance to play at high volume on a Saturday night….Amanda Blank might scratch your itch.

Amanda Blank – Something Bigger, Something Better
Amanda Blank – Shame On Me
Amanda Blank – Make It, Take It

Amanda Blank’s Official Site, Amanda Blank on LaLa, Buy I Love You

MICAH SCHNABEL – WHEN THE STAGE LIGHTS GO DIM


Two Cow Garage frontman Micah Schnabel has quietly self-released a solo album entitled When The Stage Lights Go Dim. The plan is for Suburban Home to release it later this year (or early next) with new artwork, but currently it is only available by emailing Micah’s father.

I’ve always felt like Two Cow is akin to Lucero five years ago, busting their ass on the road and building a rabid following one show at a time. Where Ben (Lucero) writes about the one that got away, Micah likes to write about the misery that the life of building the aforementioned following can produce. Personally, I am constantly surprised at how good Micah is at writing about the struggles of life on the road without ever coming off as whining. Rather, he does it with an eloquence and flair many songwriters can only aspire to.

When The Stage Lights Dim features another 10 tracks of tales from the road and of life in small town Ohio. Musically, the songs are stripped down affairs dominated by Micah and an acoustic guitar, with the occasional piano or backing vocal chiming in. It also features some of the finest songs Micah has ever written in “American Static” and “Cut Me, Mick”. Which brings me to my only complaint (whine?) about the album. I wish so badly some of the tracks like “God and Money” and “Throwing Rocks At The Sun” could have gotten the full Two Cow treatment, but I suppose there’s still hope. I first heard “Swingset Assassin” on a cd-r Micah and his father did together a few years ago.

This album is perfect for winding down in the middle of the night with a whiskey while you wait for the amplifier ring to subside a little. While it might not be a very easy cd to get right now, it’s easy to put it on the Essential Listening list, and I suggest you put the effort into acquiring it.

Micah Schnabel – American Static
Micah Schnabel – Cut Me Mic
Micah Schnabel – Throwing Rocks At The Sun

Two Cow Garage’s Official Site, Two Cow Garage on myspace

A Passing Thought: As time goes by and new music comes from Micah, it’s obvious he’s becoming one of the best pure songwriters in this genre. Can you imagine how good the next Two Cow album is gonna be?

LEFT LANE CRUISER – ALL YOU CAN EAT


Some boxers are like Roy Jones Jr. in his prime and are damned near impossible to hit, some are like Pacquiao and just overwhelm opponents with power & handspeed, while others are like a young Tyson and eschew all style points for pure power. Left Lane Cruiser are like Tyson, and with All You Can Eat, their second album with Alive Records, they’re throwing haymakers from the opening track “Crackalacka” and their power is showing no signs of waning some 9 tracks later as they close with “Waynedale”.

Those familiar with Left Lane Cruiser know exactly what I am talking about. Those that aren’t familiar with this duo from Fort Wayne, Indiana, I gotta ask…why not? Left Lane Cruiser is Freddy J. Evans IV on vocals and guitar assault, while Brenn Beck is responsible for drum abuse and an array of other sounds including washboards and mouth harps. Folks that come around ninebullets with any regularity know that I’ve been singing the praises of these guys since before they were signed to Alive Records, and I can assure you that I will not be stopping with All You Can Eat. Matter of fact, one could say that the band has actually gotten better thanks to the production talents of Jim Diamond. The recording quality of All You Can Eat is night and day better than the previous albums, leaving every instrument clear and audible at high volumes (and believe me, I’ve put it to the test).

So, next time you find yourself in the need of blues-fueled, rock-driven cd in the midst of a whiskey rage, then this, the newest entry to the 9b.net Essential Listening list, is exactly what the doctor requires. You like this site? You’ll love this disc…trust me.

Left Lane Cruiser – Crackalacka
Left Lane Cruiser – Black Lung
Left Lane Cruiser – Broke Ass Blues

Left Lane Cruiser’s Official Site, Left Lane Cruiser on myspace, Buy All You Can Eat

AUSTIN LUCAS – SOMEBODY LOVES YOU

When I was growing up I spent my summers on my grandparent’s land in Arkansas. To this day it’s the only set of directions I know how to give that includes “…after the paved road ends keep going 5 miles…”. I have mixed memories of my time there to be honest. I guess it’s one part of my childhood that refused to be romanticized. Some of the memories are amazing: pig roasts, ice cream socials, hanging out on the Tinsley’s farm down the road, hiding cigarettes in the chapel at the cemetery, drinking from a spring coming straight out the hillside, and much more. But there’s an underlying set of memories that I won’t go into here that make thinking back on those formidable years less than pleasant when you add the right amount of whiskey and being alone.

Somewhere in the back of my mind there has always been a sort of soundtrack to these summers. Some of it heavy metal because that’s what we listened to back then but some it is a wafting, soulful, folky sort of mountain music. I have never been able to put my finger on exactly what it sounds like until I played this album. Austin Lucas’s voice, rising and falling, along with the fiddles has, after all these years, given the soundtrack of part of formidable years a voice it has never had.

To look at Austin, especially his MySpace pics, you would expect to be able to use the words “dulcet tones” to describe anything he would sing. But judging this book by it’s cover would be a huge mistake. His vocals are amazing and easily transport the listener to a different time and place. It’s easy to hearken back to my summers in the hills of Arkansas and almost feel the evening begin to cool, sitting on the dock with a fishing pole in the water not caring whether the perch bite or not.

Look at that I’ve done gone all sentimental. Don’t get me wrong this album isn’t only for boys who spent their summers in the hills. With lyrics like “I shall lay my head on the shoulders of great men and live my life ’til honest end” there is something here for everyone. Between Austin’s voice, his songwriting, and his picking there is nothing lacking on this album. His sister, Chloe Manor, dropping in to harmonize takes some of the songs to a place one shouldn’t go with too much whiskey in their system. Any single one of these aspects would have made this a decent album but with them all combined the album is an outpouring of soulful melodies that touch on many themes and dive into depths most albums don’t reach. I could go on for a couple more paragraphs but I think it’s time to let the music speak for itself..

Austin Lucas – Shoulders
Austin Lucas – Resting Place
Austin Lucas – Life I’ve Got

Links:

Suburban Home Records Artist Page for Austin Lucas – This is where you go buy his music
Austin Lucas’s Official Site