press photo of 49 Winchester by Joshua Black Wilkins
Joshua Black Wilkins

Rooted in Country: 49 Winchester's Isaac Gibson on Willie Nelson's 'Whiskey River'

49 Winchester's Isaac Gibson has always had a deep connection to country music. Raised in the Appalachian town of Castlewood, Virginia, Gibson showcases the roots of his raisin' on the band's newly released Fortune Favors the Bold, with songs such as the hometown pride anthem "Russell County Line" to the bluesy Bible Belt honkytonker "Man's Best Friend."

"I left the womb with an affinity for country music," Gibson tells Wide Open Country. "My mom swears that I would stop nursing and listen intently when Vern Gosdin came on the radio."

But Gibson says his country music appreciation was expanded even further by an unlikely source.

"One of my earliest and most profound memories of loving a country song, oddly enough, came from a video game," Gibson says. "It may sound cheesy, but video game soundtracks from my childhood are still some of the deepest rooted musical memories I have, and hearing the fictional K Rose Radio station on a game called 'Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas' (Sorry, mom) really did play a huge part in cementing my passion for a particular kind of country music.  Conway and Loretta singing 'Louisiana Woman, Mississippi Man' had a groove I hadn't felt in the country music of my youth. Jerry Reed's hard driving, swampy 'Amos Moses' nearly knocked me out of my chair the first time I heard it in this game. It proved to me that country music was more than just the stuff I had heard on mainstream country radio growing up in Appalachia in the early 2000s."

Gibson's love of genre-blending country-funk led him to "Whiskey River," the Johnny Bush-penned classic that remains a staple of Willie Nelson shows to this day.

"This funky/country sound that I had fallen in love with led me to 'Whiskey River' by Willie Nelson, and I knew then that I was a country music fan," Gibson says. "I'd say I was 11, maybe 12 years old and before that, I had gone through a period where country music was for old folks and I wanted to hear something loud and angry, something that my metalhead siblings would have been blasting from their bedrooms, but 'Whiskey River' changed that. It was funky, it was behind the beat, it was groovy and it was fat. I fell in love with the idea that a country song could make me want to move my body like that. I fell in love with country music that pushed the envelope and defied tradition and 'the mold' in favor of authenticity and truth. 'Whiskey River' showed me that country music isn't limited to one sound, and that what really makes a great country song is a great country lyric. Whether it's dripping with clavinet and congas, or as simple as a flattop and a fiddle, the spirit of the tune and the honesty in its lyrics and its approach is what makes a great country song."

49 Winchester's Fortune Favors the Bold is available for purchase here.


READ MORE: Rooted in Country: The Wilder Blue on The Eagles' 'Seven Bridges Road'