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Bluesbreakers: Whiskey Myers

‘MY FIRST RIFLE was a .243 Papa gave Daddy and Daddy gave to me,’ sings Whiskey Myers frontman Cody Cannon on what has become the group’s anthem, Ballad Of A Southern Man. ‘Used to go fishing out Pickle Creek Dam, but I guess that’s something you don’t understand.’

Probably not if you’re reading this in the notably less gun-happy, creek-free UK. But when he admits: “I know all the words to Simple Man,” something might click. Because Lynyrd Skynyrd are regularly referenced by this band from the tiny town of Elkhart, east Texas, who’ve spent a decade and three albums – the fourth is out this summer – blending southern rock with blues and country.

Their taste for harder, bluesier stuff is most evident in the high-octane live shows, which have made them rising stars in the US, and numbers such as Turn It Up, Guitar Picker and 2014’s Early Morning Shakes. Guitar Picker’s title is reflected in guitarist Cody Tate’s gutsy, emotive lead licks, which add an electrifying edge.

When The Blues meets Tate before a recent London show, he’s impeccably dressed in flared butterscotch cords, belt, flowing beard and cowboy hat – all of which means he’s something of a visual focal point for the band. But Tate – who the band call Bob to avoid confusion with the other Cody – is as deadpan as they come, like when he tells us where the band’s name comes from.

“There was a man down by the river where we lived called Ricky Myers, who just sat fishing and drinking whiskey all day…” Turns out, each band member tells a different story as to the name’s origin – from it being an ancient Indian ritual to a Viking fighting craft to the Spanish name for a fighting chicken. Maybe they actually don’t care too much for names. So it would seem when we ask about their country or indeed blues credentials.

“We don’t like genres at all,” says Tate. “We can play a country song, we can play a blues song, we can play a rock’n’roll song, a bluegrass song – it don’t matter.”

One thing he does agree with is making music for a certain kind of person. One like he and his bandmates, who still live in the ‘iddy biddy towns’ they grew up in rather than southern music meccas such as Nashville or Austin. A simple man, you might conclude:“I think we represent people that live a folky Americana lifestyle and don’t get music written for them in the mainstream. There’s still a lot of people like that out in the sticks, growing their own food, killing their own meat, and I think it’s cool to be able to do that and be able to relate to that life in the music you like.”

And for The Blues readers, thousands of miles away, there’s a hell of a lot to like too.

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