Whiskey N’ Rye are a five-piece rock band hailing from Seattle, who formed in 2013 but are already ready to release their second album Sick Soul Summertime. They are centred around singer/songwriter, guitarist and producer Philip Lindholm and they describe their music as ‘roots-rock’. That is an apt term as their music is a hybrid of rock, blues, country and Americana, with even aspects of Celtic folk thrown into the blend.
The result in an intoxicating and uplifting sound, as evidenced on opening track Bottleneck Blues. It is a riotous combination of country, blues and rock featuring a plethora of instruments, including some great bursts of bluesy harmonica and even stabs of brass. Lindholm’s strong, easy-on-the-ear voice is aided by some effective use of backing vocals (both male and female) and the rolling barrelhouse-style piano solo is a nice touch. With an instantly catchy, anthemic chorus, it’s a perfect start and a potential single.
Blood in the Water is a bit harder-edged, driven along by distorted bass, rich Hammond organ and a gritty lead vocal. The stripped-back verse contrasts well with the full-on chorus and features some biting lead guitar from Greg Pascale. The title track, and first single off the album, comes next and it’s a smoky, sultry rocker with Lindholm pleading: “I’ll give you sapphires and diamonds if you’ll just give me the time...”. Its huge chorus is infectious and perfect for radio.
You Shook Me All Night Long shows their more delicate side, an acoustic country-tinged ballad with some gorgeous strings and vocal harmonies, while A Storm Is A-Comin’ and Scene Unseen are both excellent, upbeat songs. Laid To Waste slows the pace down and provides further contrast through a male/female joint lead vocal with Beth Whitney. However, it is no cheesy duet, but in fact lyrically quite dark and poignant: “I have tasted pain…tell me lies…do it again…“.
Down Lonely Girl is yet another piece of songwriting that shows a real knack for pop hooks amongst all the country and blues influences, making this a band with real commercial potential. The heartwarming Saving Grace extends their musical range even further with a distinct gospel/soul tinge that brought to mind the Stones classic Shine A Light. The closing track At A Graveside is a moving instrumental, with more of the Celtic folk influence first heard on All Night Long.
Overall, this is a very impressive and highly enjoyable album from a band who have found their own sound through combining several genres in an accessible way. Whereas country and blues music can sometimes be formulaic and clichéd, Whiskey N’ Rye filter these styles through a keen pop sensibility to create music that could become popular on the Bon Jovi/Nickelback scale, given time. With a sizeable fanbase already in place, this could well be the breakthrough album that sees Whiskey N’ Rye go stratospheric.
Verdict: 8.6 out of 10