There’s something gorgeously righteous about the heavy and unabashed Southern rock that Whiskey Myers throws down. Coming out of a small town in Texas with the kind of ferocious guitar sprawl and rebellious twang of obvious forbearers like the Allman Brothers and especially Lynyrd Skynyrd, the band was built for honky-tonk beer swilling and redneck fist-pumping in the best “damn-the-torpedoes” fashion.
“It’s pronounced Pal-est-TEEN,” drawls Cody Cannon, frontman and primary songwriter for the band, as he gently corrects the pronunciation of the group’s hometown. He comes across as an unassuming fellow, steeped in a live-and-let-live ethos that enthuses the band’s music and is endemic to a certain brand of Southern blue-collar identity. He’s fairly casual about how he and fellow guitarists Cody Tate and John Jeffers began building the rock workhorse that became Whiskey Myers.
“A lot of us are kin and just grew up playing ball and stuff,” he shrugs. “We’ve pretty much known each other our whole lives. It just kinda happened, you know?”
Although the group came up in the Red Dirt scene of Texas, rife with Americana and alt-country-leaning talents, Cannon also doesn’t like to draw much of a distinction between that tradition and the earlier Southern rock and outlaw country lineage that his songs seem a bit more steeped in.
“I don’t think we were thinking about any of that really; we were just playing music and it sounded that way,” he demurs. “We didn’t plan any of it. But we dig all those [alt-country] bands. Maybe subconsciously you take things from your influences and stuff, but that’s just how we sound.”
The other obvious parallel to draw to the group is Chris Stapleton, the unlikely Nashville success story whose sound is a statelier — but more sedate—version of what Whiskey Myers offers. And the band even shares the same producer, Dave Cobb, who has given his Midas touch to other Nashville outsiders like Jason Isbell, Sturgill Simpson, and Jamey Johnson. The band actually started working with Cobb prior to his “It Producer” status, having linked up with him thanks to a longtime connection with his cousin Brent Cobb, a singer-songwriter in his own right that has contributed tunes and co-writes to Whiskey Myers albums.
“We had known about Dave for a long time,” Cannon says. “I was a big fan of the Shooter [Jennings] record that he did, and the Jamey Johnson one. It just kinda worked out. We had so many mutual connections.”
There has to be some hope in Whiskey Myers, given the success Cobb has had, particularly with acts like Stapleton, that a higher commercial echelon is waiting for them. For now, though, they are just happy selling out gradually bigger clubs as they continue their road warrior ways.
“It’s catching lightning in the bottle, how something that’s not commercial becomes commercial all of a sudden,” Cannon notes. “But we’re very lucky to be able to do what we do.”
Like Jennings and unlike many of the other more progressive-leaning acts that Cobb has worked with, it’s difficult to deny that there’s a certain brand of cantankerous blue-collar conservatism that runs through the group as well. Much of their early success was built on 2011’s “Ballad of a Southern Man,” a tune that seems to balance Chris Knight and James McMurtry literary impulses with an anti-PC reclamation of Southern pride that makes no bones about its love of guns, God and, most disturbingly, that damn flag.
“I still fly that Southern flag/ whistling Dixieland enough to brag,” sings Cobb brashly on the track. “And I know all the words to ‘Simple Man’/ I guess that’s something you don’t understand.”
The tune has echoes of Skynyrd’s oft-misunderstood “Sweet Home Alabama,” but with even more jagged edges.
“I just do my own thing and if people don’t like it they can kiss my ass,” says Cannon bluntly when asked about the politics of his music. “I don’t give a damn about anybody’s opinion about me. I ain’t worried about any political correctness or hurting somebody’s fucking feelings. If they don’t like it they can go home.
“We try not to get too political or anything, but I like to write about the hard-working man. You write what you see, you know,” he continues, softening just slightly. “All that damn getting offended about everything, that’s just bullshit anyway. Our audience is just regular-ass people like us, shit. You put your boots on, you go to work, you come home. That’s how most damn Americans are anyway, not these idiots you see on TV all the time. Middle America is too busy trying to pay their damn bills.”
Cannon’s blasé attitude toward such thorny questions aside, there’s no denying his commitment to honesty, something which he believes is key to the band’s success.
“I think when you start trying to make it fit a certain thing, it’s gonna lose all its balls and all its potency. And I think it loses a lot of honesty too,” he says. “We really dug old country and rock ‘n’ roll and great blues, so it’s just got a mix of all that.”
“We just go out there and try to make good music and let the chips fall where they may.”