The late 1970s represented the heyday of popular Southern music. Southern rock and “outlaw country” dominated the airwaves. It was chic to say “ya’ll,” even in Boston, and with the election of Jimmy Carter, it really seemed the “South was gonna’ do it again.”
It wouldn’t last. During an interview at Capricorn Studios in Macon, GA one afternoon, Charlie Daniels spit into his cup and said it wouldn’t mean anything in a few years. He was right. In less than a decade, the South had once again become the punching bag for everything that ailed the United States, the backwards other in American politics. Her people were taken for granted by the political class. They could be counted on to vote, but promises were easily broken. By the 1990s, the onslaught against her symbols began in earnest. Southerners had much to defend, but they had lost their voice.
Music had once been the outlet. Sweet Home Alabama, Tennessee, The Devil Went Down to Georgia, Gator Country, Carolina Dreams, etc. Every Southern band wooed the land and its people. Somehow that was lost, and in the commercially driven world of popular music, singing songs about the Southland didn’t have the same impact, at least until now.
Perhaps Southern roots are too deep to pull. Even in the PC world gone mad, there are still Southerners, young Southerners, who proudly claim Dixie and her people as their own. Some of it has become cliché, almost a new type of commercialism, but it is easy to spot the poseurs.
Whiskey Myers aren’t poseurs. This Texas based blues/rock band has always had its ear to the ground and a feel for the South. Their “Ballad of a Southern Man” is one of the best modern odes to the South, and their newest effort, Mud, is grittier, a tour-de-force excursion into the heart of the Southern people. You can feel, smell, and taste the Southern mud along the riverbank. This isn’t a popcorn Southern album. Whiskey Myers exposes the Southern soul, her pain and her joys. “Baby there ain’t no same in being poor, here in this trailer that we call home.” “They say Jesus was a poor man. I guess I wish I had a little more of him in me.” “Ain’t no love for the poor dirt farmer, a genuine son of the South.”
The band’s romp through the South touches every nerve: poverty, the land, hard work, love, pride, the martial spirit, defiance, nostalgia, history, family. It’s all there, packaged together in ten nicely produced–but not overproduced–tunes.
If you like Southern music with an edge, a band that gives a big middle finger to Northern critics, then Whiskey Myers “Mud” should be in your playlist.