By Kevin Law,
Host of The Saloon Rock Club Radio Show
Whiskey Grin is a hard workin’, hard-rockin’ trio out of South Jersey, and they’ve just released their independently produced self-titled debut. It showcases what this band does best, which is deliver a straight-ahead blues-infused brand of heavy rock. The album opens with the song, “Saturday’s Child” whose opening riff calls you aboard this rock and roll train ride and the driving rhythm quickly takes you to the point of no turning back.
On its surface the album’s theme, to borrow a line from its track “Midnight Driver,” is “under the veil of darkness” with a heavy focus on the darker side of our human condition as it tells stories of murder, corrupt leaders, failed relationships and even the spawn of a satanic seed for good measure. I did say BLUES-infused, right?
Many of the nine songs are emotionally driven, and singer John Tidwell isn’t afraid to expose past wounds in the lyrics he writes. His stories of growing up with an abusive father in “Battle Creek” and a failed romantic relationship which brought about a murderous rage in “Bad Feelin’” are very personal. But more than rehashing the past, these stories may have been dredged up to purge old demons and heal those wounds. It’s with this that the darkness sheds light on a deeper level and, in my opinion, the real theme: catharsis. Again in “Battle Creek” you’ll hear the son ask his father, “Why must you be so cruel?” and then realize for his sake, the anger wasn’t his fault and there was nothing he could do to change him. A similar idea is delivered in the song “Feet Of Clay”. We’re told when faced with human weakness, whether our own or our heroes, we have to “Rise up and walk again.” In these songs, there’s more than meets the ear, which may provide subtext to the album’s tongue-in-cheek (or should I say cheeks on seat?) cover art.
I’ve seen Whiskey Grin perform some of these songs live, but now thanks to this recording, I have the opportunity to pay closer attention and absorb the songs. I can appreciate everything I hear, from guitarist Jim Mayberry’s blistering solos throughout, to the thunderous rhythm bassist John Tidwell and drummer Dreem brings down on these tracks. From its aforementioned opening to the beautiful coda “Palace Of The Paramour” with its Zeppelinesque touches, the quality of the production, well-crafted at Ron Tagg’s Greenfield Records in Runnemede, NJ, and the musicianship from this experienced trio of rockers is excellent. One only has to pick any song on this album to prove it.
For an independent band like Whiskey Grin, who have responsibilities like day jobs, families and mortgages, the project of writing, recording and producing an album is no small task. This is a project that requires much commitment, time and collaborative teamwork. I admit to teasing the fellas about the amount of time it took to complete this project, and now I have to say that it was well worth the wait. The end result is a collection of great songs you will want to hear again and again.
Stories, news and reviews presented by the staff of Philly Rock Radio.