The boys of Whiskey Myers are this decades kings of Southern rock, and nobody else can touch them right now.
Their 6th studio album Tornillo is out everywhere today, almost three years after they released their self-titled record in 2019, which was the first one they self-produced and a strong addition to their incredible catalog of music.
Of course, part of what’s made Whiskey Myers so special since they formed the band in 2007 (aside from the music itself), is the fact that they’ve reached insane levels of success that most bands only ever dream of… only, they’ve done it completely independently and exactly how they wanted to do it, without any sort of influence from a major record label of any kind.
Clearly, they’ve consciously chosen to do things the harder way, but it’s payed off because they connect so authentically with their dedicated fan base, which shows when it comes to their ticket sales and streaming numbers alone — they’ve sold over 250,000 thousand tickets to date, and have over 1.8 billion streams across all platforms.
They also just had three songs be certified Platinum, including “Stone,” “Ballad of a Southern Man,” and “Broken Window Serenade,” and “Virginia” certified Gold by RIAA at their sold-out Red Rocks debut, and have also had their songs featured on the hit series Yellowstone multiple times, even appearing as a bar band on an episode, which has only contributed to their rising popularity.
Frontman Cody Cannon told me that, while all the Gold and Platinum records, hundreds of thousands of tickets sold and #1 albums are certainly meaningful accomplishments, being able to do it his way and make the music he wanted is what he’s most proud of:
“So I think maybe the great accomplishment when you look back, and probably maybe something to be the most proud of with what this band has done, is being able to accomplish all those things amazingly, you know, with being independent and doing it our own way.
I think that’s what I’m most proud about.”
You can read more about his thoughts on being an independent band and the importance of hard work when it comes to making it like that here, but we also talked a little bit about Tornillo, which is I’m sure why you’re reading this today.
For this new record, the six-piece band headed down to the famous Sonic Ranch in Tornillo, Texas, and recorded all 14 songs on the tracklist in the town that ultimately became the namesake of this project.
It’s very fitting, because the Texas natives clearly felt right at home taking the reins from a production standpoint and putting out a project that is 100% Whiskey Myers in every way possible.
Guitarist John Jeffers said on an episode of the Whiskey Riff Raff podcast that they had even more confidence doing so this time around, since they were so happy with how the aforementioned Whiskey Myers turned out:
“We self-produced the last album, and then turned around and did another one, so we kinda kept the same groove we used on the last one, ‘cuz we were happy how it turned out.
You know we went in with the same mindset on the white one was like, we’ll let’s go try to self-produce it, and if it sucks, then we’ll ask somebody to come help us.
But we ended up thinking it didn’t suck, so we kinda just went in with the same mindset, you know?”
It features few outside writers, per the usual with them, with the bulk of the writing credits going to frontman Cody Cannon and some to guitarist John Jeffers. A couple other band members, Jamey Gleaves and Tony Kent, helped Cody co-write the lead single “John Wayne,” and writer Aaron Raitier co-wrote “Mission to Mars” with Cody.
They released four kickass singles in the lead up to today, including “John Wayne,”“Antioch,” and “Whole World Gone Crazy,” and “The Wolf,”which are all fantastic songs you should definitely check out, but for this post, I want to focus on all the good stuff new stuff we’re getting to hear for the first time today.
They brought in tons of horns throughout the record, which makes it feel super rock and roll and is a bit of a different sound compared to their prior albums, but they also have a lot of choir harmonies and a heavy gospel and blues influence like we’re using to hearing from them, too.
Of course, the way they do this so tastefully is what we all love so much about their ability to bend and fuse genres and create such a unique sound that you can never quite put a finger on.
You can’t define their sound as purely country, southern rock, blues or anything else specifically, but that blend, coupled with their insane talent and fantastic songwriting, has proven them one of the best acts (and one of my personal favorite’s) in all of the music industry at the moment.
They also cite inspiration from all across the musical spectrum, including Nirvana, Waylon Jennings and the Gospel stylings of the McCrary Sisters who provide much of the backing vocals, and I think you can hear all of those influences very clearly throughout the album. It makes a beautiful concoction of their rich taste in great music that I really cannot get enough of.
And now, I want to recommend just a few of my favorite’s to get you started with this new record today. But of course, I always encourage you to start with track one and listen all the way through, because that’s the way this album is meant to be heard.
There are some very heavy moments on the tracklist, which we’ll get to, but overall, it’s pretty upbeat, and I think the loyal Whiskey Myers fans and people who discover their music for the first time alike here will find that the Texas boys stayed true to their Southern roots and delivered yet another project that’s one more jewel in the crown of their stellar catalog.
“For the Kids”
A solo write by frontman Cody Cannon, he says that this song was inspired by the fact that so many people experience a similar kind of relationship in terms of divorce and how it can effect families.
I was blown away the first time I heard it, and while it’s definitely sad, heavy, and it might rip your heart clean out of your chest, but it may be my favorite on the album. It’s searingly honest, timeless, and I don’t think I’ve ever heard this take on divorce, or putting one off for the sake of the kids, in a song quite this way before.
Though he didn’t go in with a preconceived idea for the track, Cody knows how personal it will be for a lot of people because of the universal sentiment in staying in a relationship for the sake of someone else:
“If I go in with a preconceived notion, I can’t ever get it right. So I just try to get out of my own way when I’m writing now, I guess I’ve learned that over time.
And then just kinda let the song kinda take its own shape. I have no idea! You’re just kinda writin’ about life, mostly, you know.
I think that’s just kinda of a thing that happens a lot. Personal to a lot of people. Yeah, but as far as me writing, nah, it’s just me jamming out under the paper.”
As he notes in the pensive lyrics, “we don’t have to be happy” and maybe that’s okay sometimes, too:
“If we could stay together for the kids and a few more years They might not end up like we did Love has a way of losing its shine over time You were young and so was I We don’t have to be happy”
It’s an easy standout for me, and one I think people will really gravitate towards for years to come.
“Heavy on Me”
A solo write by John Jeffers, the lyrics find him begging for the responsibility that comes along with growing up when it comes to a marriage and what that really means in practice.
Though he still likes to drink and indulge in some of his vices, he’s ready to “bear all the weight” in his relationship and family.
Another solo write by Cody, he grapples with his faith and life in what he says is essentially a letter to his young son about how to navigate challenges and make good decisions. Ultimately, he sings that the secret to life, if there is such a thing, is to trust in your faith and lean on the supernatural strength from the other side to achieve any sort of happiness.
It’s easy to draw comparisons to Lynyrd Skynyrd’s iconic hit “Simple Man,” and sonically, this one is classic Whiskey Myers which I love. It’s another standout on what is an extremely solid record top to bottom.
“Heart of Stone”
I told Cody this in our conversation and I’m going to say it again now for the record, I sincerely hope this becomes a fan-favorite, and I’m fairly confident that it will.
For starters, it has some of those same, anthemic qualities that make their fan-favorite songs like “Stone” and “Broken Window Serenade” so striking.
It’s almost like a sequel or follow-up to “Stone,” where Cody admits that he’s experienced a lot of heartbreak that has hardened him towards the world, though he continues to push through and try to do the best he can despite all of that.
The first time I listened to the album, I was a little surprised that they closed out what was an-otherwise mostly upbeat tracklist with such a heavy one.
Cody said that it just felt right to end it with one of those heavy, long songs we all love from them:
“I don’t know, it just kinda felt heavy, and dark and different. Usually we do big long songs.
I think the rest of the album for the most part was pretty happy, it just felt right putting that broke down song at the end. But then again, yeah, you’re just trying to build a record and gave it flow and stuff like that.
And we didn’t have that, you know, maybe like a big slow song with the long outro and stuff like we do a lot.”
The lyrics here are beautiful, and no matter who you are or what you’re going through, there’s a little bit of something for everyone:
“I’m learning most things a man my age is supposed to know I’m learning how to love I’m learning about the Lord above I’m learning that he’s given me more than anythingI could dream of But I carry on with a heart of stone and calloused hands”
I think this one could easily be the next Platinum hit for Whiskey Myers and will be a thrill to hear at a live show:
Ultimately, I can really only describe this album similar to how I’d describe almost every project they’ve ever put out, in that it’s as southern as sweet tea and as rock and roll as Elvis, but per the usual, is anchored by brazenly honest and gripping lyrics that are as country as can be.
It’s simple, authentic, and in an industry full of bullshit and smoke and mirrors, these guys sing from the heart and have a whole lot of Southern soul.
If you’re a fan of not only country and Southern rock, but music in general, I urge you to check this album out.
It’s easily one of my favorite’s from this year so far, and I don’t see that changing when it inevitably comes time to makes those end-of-year album lists at the end of 2022. Don’t be surprised to see this one right near the top of mine.
Their social media bio really sums it up best, though… thank the Lord, it really and truly is: