Photo courtesy of Whiskeybelles. Photo by F2Images.
Since we formally introduced you to the likes of homegrown country outfit Whiskeybelles, the all-female trio has been busy accepting WAMI awards, playing strenuous stretches of shows and festivals throughout the state, and putting the finishing touches on their debut album, Whiskey Woman.
Whiskey Woman springs to life in no time with the album’s raucous and appropriately appointed title track. The energetic intro song, “Whiskey Woman,” is an upbeat homage to classic country, complete with a fiddle solo, ever-present banjitar backing and an array of references to liquor and bar room brawls.
Following the toe-tapping table setter, the ’Belles ease back a bit, both in terms of pace and lyrical content, with a trio of slower efforts highlighted by positive third track “Genuine” in which the strong and distinct voices of Chrissy Dzioba, Kimmy Unger and Sara Moilanen meld into a single airtight harmony in the chorus, “Good friends are hard to come by/I plan on keeping mine/my life is genuine.”
The pace is, again, hastened with should-be Hank Williams b-side, “Pills I took” and its grappling vocal hook “I still don’t know what they were/I don’t know where I got ’em/they sure did make me feel good/they keep my heart from feeling blue/kept my thoughts away from you.” Within three minutes, the song somehow manages to simultaneously stick in your head while it tugs at your heartstrings. It, and, really, the majority of Whiskey Woman’s eight songs seem to pay familiar sonic tribute to country, bluegrass and general Americana music, while remaining something all its own – and not at all in the gimmicky “Whoa, this band is only girls!” kind of way.
Though lacking any percussion, the seasoned cast of award-winning Wisconsin musicians and vocalists totes ample musical depth to Whiskey Woman, through experienced instrumentation and effortlessly smooth three-part harmonies. Figuratively and literally, Whiskeybelles stand in no man’s land. The band has too much balls to even bother acknowledging the inevitable Dixie Chicks comparisons, but sing too high and, at times, about topics too lily white to be likened to obvious influences Johnny Cash and Williams. But therein exists the beauty of the ’Belles: the band’s knack for ably navigating from mainstream country to classic country without missing a step.
If one flaw can be found in Whiskey Woman (aside from a few select trivial, boyfriend-centric melodies) it’s that there isn’t nearly enough of it. At eight songs and a smidge under half an hour, the album leaves you as soon as it captures your full attention. Still, this is an encouraging next step for one of Milwaukee’s most active and more diverse classically trained acts.
The WhiskeyBelles will play its album release show at Lo-Cash Live (124 W. National Ave.) Sunday, July 29 from 1-4 p.m.