If you've even remotely followed the Texas country scene in the past few years, you've heard of Whiskey Myers. Their 2011 album, Firewater, perked ears all across the Lone Star State.
And by the time their 2014 record, Early Morning Shakes, landed on Rolling Stone's' list of albums you should hear, their sound spread far outside their East Texas origins.
So you probably also know about their highly anticipated follow-up album, Mud. With a gritty title like that, you better believe the East Texas boys doubled down on their swampy southern country rock.
"We just do our thing, man," says Whiskey Myers lead vocals and songwriter Cody Cannon. So you can trust any thoughts of pressure to outdo their last release went right out the window. "We ain't worried about any of that," Cannons says. "We just want to go out there and create good music."
For the past few months, Whiskey Myers was doing just that as a supporting act for the Carnival of Madness tour, which featured hard rock heavyweights Shinedown, Halestorm and Black Stone Cherry. It brought the band's sound in front of a whole new audience -- and a big one.
"That was the biggest tour that we've been on," Cannon says. " They had like five 18-wheelers and eight buses, catering, massage people -- all kinds of stuff like that. Very different from playing them old bars. But it's really neat to see such a big production come together."
The band used the tour as an opportunity to play a lot of their newer, heavier songs from Mud. Generally speaking, they'd stretch about five songs over their 30-minute set, building in intricate transitions and ebbs in the music. Cannon calls it the "rock n' roll" set.
But longtime fans of the band need not worry -- Mud is far from a one-trick pony. And some of its greatest moments come from its more tender, country-influenced tracks, like "Stone."
"When we first heard "Stone" back in the studio, that was one of the moments that really felt special on the record," Cannon says. "And hearing the guitars on [title track] 'Mud.' That was like, 'Hell yeah man, this makes your head bob.'"
The group enlisted the expertise of producer Dave Cobb once again. Since his work on Early Morning Shakes, Cobb's trophy shelf picked up some notable hardware thanks to some of his artists, including Chris Stapleton and Jason Isbell.
Cannon says the band always kind of knew of Dave because they had a lot of mutual friends, including Dave's musical causing Brent Cobb, who the band features on the album's final track "Good Ole Days."
When it came time to do Mud, the choice to work together again was obvious. And, despite his new-found fame, it was a familiar chemistry in the studio. "He was a little busier cause he had lot of interviews and people asking him about stuff," Cannon says. "But other than that he's just same old Dave, man."
But the record does feature a few firsts. Like the Muscle Shoals horn section on lead single "Lightning Bugs and Rain," a fantastic production touch Cannon calls "all Dave," and one that met absolutely no resistance.
"We were like, 'Yes absolutely, we love horns, and this song needs horns,'" Cannon says. The result is a new richness that complements the bands usually rough-around-the-edges delivery. It's downright dancy, but doesn't feel out of place.
However, there are no plans to make anybody learn trumpet for the live performance -- though at least one member already has some saxophone experience.
The album marks a few other big firsts. For one, it features a co-write with one of Cannon's heroes. Black Crowes writer and guitarist Rich Robinson lent his talents to the inescapably cool song "Frogman."
"It was great," Cannon says. "We didn't get anything the first day we tried to write. Rich was like, 'Man this environment is too sterile, we need some electric guitars.' So we went to SoundCheck and cranked it up. You can really hear Rich's flavor all over those parts."
For the most part, Cannon kept his cool. "I was trying to not let on I was that big of a fan," he says. "That's one of my favorite bands all time; top 5 for sure."
In fact, watching a Black Crowes performance inspired Cannon in his own performance style. "Their show blew my mind," he says. "I was like, 'Man I hope I can be that good one day.' Or damn, maybe I should just retire," Cannon laughs.
Co-writing is not one of Cannon's favorite things to do. "Sometimes people just ain't on the same level creatively," Cannon says. "But we have a group of buddies we really enjoy sitting down with. It's great for finding that one word you can't, but that really ties things together."
It's a good thing Cannon didn't retire, though, and jumped at the chance to co-write with Robinson. Because Mud is the band's strongest offering to date.
Certainly, the record dives into the deepest, heaviest riffs to date. The title track shows just why the band fits on a bill with hard rock chart toppers. "Frogman" and "Deep Down in the South" offer similar headbang-worthy moments.
But the meaty riffs don't overwhelm the whole offering. Instead, Whiskey Myers balances the heavy song with some of their most thought-provoking tunes yet. "Stone" may prove to be the album's most powerful song. But the understated "Trailer We Call Home" harkens back to "Broken Window Serenade" and reminds us why we fell in love with this band in the first place.
And "Good Ole Days" provides a knee-slapping proclamation that, despite what you hear on the news, everything is going to be alright.
The whole offering wraps up nicely, centered strongly around a love of home and tradition. But Cannon swears they didn't go into the studio looking for a theme. "We just wing it," he says. "Our whole career, 9 years in of making records, I shit you not we just wing the whole thing."
Well, it's working. Whiskey Myers is slowly but surely winging its way into the upper echelons of country fried southern rock. Mud comes out on Sept. 9.
Catch Whiskey Myers on the road -- playing two and a half hour sets, this time -- all through the fall.
Whiskey Myers band members include Cody Cannon, Cody Tate, John Jeffers, Gary Brown and Jeff Hogg.