Whiskey Shivers is one part old time string band and one part Bill Monroe on a hell bound bender. Since their 2011 debut album Batholith, the Austin, Texas-based outfit has been steady building a name with their punk-infused bluegrass music (lovingly known as “trashgrass”).
The quintet’s rowdy live shows, in which the band performs barefoot in true hillbilly fashion, led to a devoted local following and eventual national attention. Their music has been featured on The Daily Show and Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations, and this December, they’ll appear in the musical comedy Pitch Perfect 3. Pretty impressive for a group that formed through a chance Craigslist ad.
The band — made up of Bobby Fitzgerald (fiddle, vocals), Andrew VanVoorhees (upright bass, vocals), James Bookert (vocals, banjo), Jeff “Horti” Hortillosa (vocals, guitar) and James Gwyn (vocals, drums) — falls somewhere between The Dillards and Old Crow Medicine Show.
Their fifth album, Some Part of Something (out July 21) is a natural progression of the band’s wholly original sound and proof that bluegrass — and trashgrass — is every bit as welcome in dimly lit city bars as it is at a down-home Kentucky American Legion. In case you forgot that bluegrass was party music, Whiskey Shivers are here to remind you.
The album kicks off with “Cluck Ol’ Hen,” a gritty, eerie take on an old time bluegrass gem. “Like a Stone,” a plea to an increasingly distant love, captures the struggle of trying to hold on to someone who’s slipping away. “The world is coming ’round me and I stand here like a stone, forever waiting hourly for you to call me home,” Fitzgerald sings in a desperate growl.
These songs excel at blending modern themes with a traditional sound, a feat that has come to define the current Americana music scene. “Gave Away,” a track about a relationship nearly derailed by narcissism, is a standout moment on the record.
The band shows its tender side on “Red Rocking Chair,” a beautiful rendition of a traditional bluegrass song. “Reckless,” a barn-burning ode to ramblin’ and the wild life, is yet another album high point.
The Shivers even fearlessly tackle a cover of The Cure’s “Friday I’m in Love,” which has become a staple of their live shows. A bluegrass cover of a goth rock new wave song is the best thing you never knew you needed.
Raw, rowdy and more fun than a barrel of moonshine, Some Part of Something proves that Whiskey Shivers is a band to watch. The album is available for pre order as CD/vinyl here, and in digital format on iTunes and Pledge Music,