A Pure Shot From the South; Whiskey Myers at The Dome, London
Whiskey Myers on December 1, 2016
Judging by the t-shirts among the audience at The Dome, having already seen Blackberry Smoke and The Cadillac Three this, my first Whiskey Myers show, would appear to complete the trio of hot new southern bands.
Whiskey Myers have built up a strong following as demonstrated by this sell-out at a very well-selected venue. The show was being streamed live and the buzz awaiting the headline act seemed keener than usual. They look the part, this is a bunch you wouldn’t mess with, there was almost a sense of menace as seven men walked onto the stage in no doubt as to what happens next.
They wasted no time in getting down to business opening with "Early Morning Shakes" from the eponymous album, its opening slide then driving rhythm setting the pace for the entire evening. Next up was the very suitable "Bar Guitar and a Honky Tonk Crowd" from the Firewater album. Vocalist Cody Cannon established his leadership early on as he prowled around the stage whose voice has a power to match his band. Then came the first from the new record, Mud, "On the River" with its haunting opening that gave fiddler Jon Knudson his first chance to shine before the band piled in with force ending with a tearing shred from lead guitarist, Cody Tate.
Firewater and Mud provided much of the setlist, played at a ferocious pace with volume to match. And this is where I may upset a few Whiskey Myers fans as I felt some of the subtlety evident in Mud was lost. Sure, a live show isn’t about finessing every last detail but having a good time and don’t get me wrong, Whiskey Myers give you a good time. But when they slowed down a bit and let out more of that great talent around the band; their span of roots, country and blues, not to mention some piercing lyrics, we got the full measure. That applied as much to Knudson on fiddle and keyboards as to the twin guitar force of Cody Tate and John Jeffers. "Trailer We Call Home" is a good example of the strands of influences behind a song that could apply as much to those in the Depression as now. "Anna Marie" was another that brought out some of the more country elements lost in the fury of what otherwise was a pure rock show.
After that more soulful interlude the final part of the show was sheer power; "Frogman" may have been about a navy SEAL but Cannon was more of a shark as he propelled himself around the stage, always on the move. This was red-blooded stuff and the audience loved it. The band’s signature song, "Ballad of a Southern Man", was a proper team effort setting out where they are from, what they stand for and, in the opinion of this reviewer, the show’s highlight. Those who go for drive and power may well disagree and I don’t dispute the playing of Tate and Jeffers on "Home and "Stone", the two final songs which brought the set to a thunderous finish. And I too was in awe at the sight of all seven giving it everything with no exceptions including percussionist, Tony Kent. For those still standing there was one encore, "How Far", their final chance to hear the twin sounds of searing slide that is such a complement to Cannon’s voice.
Whether they are country boys or not and despite the flashbacks of Van Zant as Cannon wielded the mic stand and when he joined Tate and Jeffers in that classic southern guitar triumvirate, Whiskey Myers are a class act. Whether this generation of southern bands feel they carry a heavy load, these boys know their roots and they gave an epic performance. Going back to the three most popular t-shirts, this is #1.