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Jammin' with Whiskey Shambles

I love diggin up cool bands out of the litter of our Cincy band scene landscape. Not since I heard Two Headed Dog have I been so enthusiastic about a find. Whiskey Shambles has everything I’m looking for in a new original band (of their genre). It’s raw, talent laden, dirty & dark, savage yet smoothly aggressive.
Often listening to an original band means suffering through many so-so songs to find the diamonds in the rough. With Whiskey Shambles, every tune is interesting, compelling and addicting all at the same time. It was a packed house in the graffiti covered Junkers Tavern in Northside. Under a full moon on an oddly dark Sunday night, I watched Whiskey Shambles thrill the crowd. Stuffed in a dank corner, under no lights other than the amber jukebox display, they tore through their songs, thoroughly saturating the night air (inside and out) with their rowdy roadhouse raunch. Some songs are pure power plays, others are melodic & trance like. All are on the dark side. They keep you keep hangin’ on the edge of the seat in anticipation. After each song I could only wonder “What the hell are they gonna do next?” They keep challenging your perception of just who this band is with each passing tune. It got darker and deeper as the midnight cast it’s shadow over the block. Standing outside, I could hear the band clearly. Few souls were in sight but the music took on a new dimension, providing a virtual soundtrack to the neglected neighborhood, echoes bounced off ancient peeling walls and cracked concrete. Chilling vibes on this hot midnight sidewalk. Standing under the street lights, listening intently, it all felt wonderfully illicit.


The basis for all the viciousness & vigor is the stripped down, raw sound of the instruments. These guys keep the gear to a minimum and the electronics almost totally out of the picture. Only the savage sounding six string is darkly distorted. The vocals, bass and drums are running pure and clean. The only other distortion comes naturally as singer/guitarist Nathan Singer screams his heat seeking lyrics into the stained & strained mic. It all comes together as a mean clean sound that effects would only diminish and mask the genuine-ness of it all. This is what the term “garage band” means to me. To some “Garage Band” may be taken as an insult. To Whiskey Shambles it’s a philosophy. They’re not following a popular genre, and they refuse to play anything other than their own brand of “blues metal madness”. In my mind, they’re in a genre of their own.
In the winter of 2012, Nathan Singer (Vocals, Guitar, 8-String Bass), Aaron Tyree (Drums) and Brother James (Bass) formed Whiskey Shambles. The trio adds sexy singer Latonya Foster on back up vocals in both many live shows and studio recordings. Foster’s sweet clear & clean vocals add a sharp and often eerie contrast to the stark liquor spittin’ lyrics Singer spews out. Drummer Tyree looks like he’s not trying hard, or even hardly trying, but in reality he’s tappin’, tickling & thumpin’ the beat that fuels the beast. He’s a laid back pro, all beat, no show. Bassist Brother James doesn’t just bum the beat along, he drives it. Right off you’ll notice he often plays the bass like a lead guitar. Stretched four finger bottom neck cords bring out tones not associated with hum drum two finger bass players. He’s not so hung up on technique to marvelously repeat a simple tribal rhythm either. Together, these guys create a motley brew of music that meshes blues and metal, wrapped in a dark cloak, shades of the macabre.

Take their cute little diddy “Knoxville Girl”. A self described “Appalachian Murder Song”. It sounds like a modern version of some timeless turn of the century tune, but in fact it’s a deeply dark murder story about a man who kills a girl for no reason whatsoever. They rock you down & dirty with tracks like “In My Soul, Under My Skin” and “Leave Her Alone”, then unexpectedly turn around and soothe you with “Shoot the lights Out”. All three of those tunes are on their site www.whiskeyshambles.com and they are releasing one each week until their CD (Loose Change for a Broken Man) release in August at The Drinkery (see exact date on their website).
I say be there. Check it out online, send them a shout and start diggin deep into the mysterious music of Whiskey Shambles. Venues looking for a new down & dirty band that breaks the molds, these guys are worth a book.

 

 

 

 

 

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