Lonnie Walker – Grape Juice
Lonnie Walker – Compass Comforts
Sometimes there's just this feeling you get when you first listen to a new band. It's like biting into a vodka-soaked watermelon. You've tasted the flavor of a watermelon a million times before so your mouth knows what to expect. But this time you're delighted by the subtle, pleasing after tones of liquor. Lonnie Walker can certainly be labeled by established genres. You can call them Americana, alt-country, or roots-rock, but these labels alone betray the sound and energy the band has achieved.
Lonnie Walker is the fleshed-out version of frontman Brian Corum's solo songwriting. They spent some time gigging around Greenville and developing their sound before recording These Times Old Times last year and heading out on the road with a solidified, 5-person line up.
The first song I heard was "Feels Like Right" and I knew 25 seconds in when a conventional southern rock riff suddenly droops with whammy that I was in store for something different. The band has successfully been able to infuse a classic genre with a unique, creative spin. Their brand of Pavement-meets-Drive-by Truckers isn't as weird or off putting as it sounds. The often unpredictable guitar and vocal melodies fuse with straight-ahead country rock in an explosion of instantly catchy zaniness. "Compass Comforts" is a raucous dance party with slurred verses and Gordon Gano-like bah bah's and ooh aah's.
It's the track "Grape Juice" that really kills. In the back of my mind I couldn't shake a Backyard Tire Fire reference and this song cemented it. "Grape Juice" takes the BTF formula of honest Southern sincerity featuring epic, sing-a-long sections and, dare I say, improves it. The song starts out simple enough, with a mid-tempo backbeat and a nice riff. But when Corum comes in with his talk-singing verse and drops the line "is this fucked up, or is it all made up that it's fucked?", I was hooked. The song dashes left and right between tempos, riffs, melodies, screams, and romantic existentialism. It's an infectious tune and a great album opener to kick you in the ass and make you pay attention.
Get out your shit kickers out because the boys of Lonnie Walker mean business.