We caught up with the peripatetic and ebullient Whiskey Shivers just before their album release party in New York’s Lower East Side and got a good jolt of why I loved this band the minute I heard them. They describe their music as “trash-grass,” but I call it punk-grass: fast-paced music with a big dose of attitude, thinly disguised as traditional bluegrass.
Just before the show, washboardist (aka percussionist) Joe Deuce explained that the group’s name came from that visceral shiver you get when you’ve just downed a shot of whiskey, and although I get that, what I don’t understand is how five guys can stretch that one-second feeling into an entire set—yet somehow they do. Any Whiskey Shivers performance is a guaranteed wild ride, exhilarating and exhausting… a little like sex, just less messy.
Whiskey Shivers tour hard. They won the Austin Music Award for Best Country/Bluegrass Band in 2013 and played some 20 shows at SXSW, but this year are too busy to make it to SXSW at all, so there’s a good chance you can catch them near your nabe in the coming months. If you can’t see this band live, however, their new album, Whiskey Shivers, is the next best thing. Full of breakneck bluegrass and unedited opinions, their songs bridge the gap between the Word of The Lord and the words that will keep them off Walmart shelves forever.
To a skeptic, “Free,” the album’s opening cut, could have been pressed at 125 percent of the actual performance, but I’m here to tell you that these guys really can deliver music fast enough to outrun Smokey. “Been Looking For” and “Hot Party Dads” fall in the same breakneck category, with the band’s less-than reverent attitude that makes daughters light up and parents lock doors. “Graves,” on the other hand—deliberate and weighty—brings chain gangs and field hands to mind—this is definitely not a one-trick band. As Ms. I-Love-Harmony, I’m the last person you’d expect to favor “Swarm,” the one instrumental on the album, but, damn!—it’s great.
They tour 200 days a year; look ’em up, and treat yourself to a good album and a great night out.
– Suzanne Cadgène