On their new release, A Little Something Stronger Than Wine, Boise's Jonathan Warren and the Billy Goats have straightforward interests: women, the West and whiskey.
Frontman Warren seems to have a particular closeness to the brown liquid, singing, "She'll make a man lose his mind / but she'll help him / make it through the night."
While the whiskey panacea might make things easier at first, the rockabilly quintet acknowledges that drink doesn't solve everything: "It didn't take a lot to learn her name / but it'll take a long time for him to forget."
While their tastes may seem transparent, their style of barroom bluegrass on this album won't leave a guy crying in his glass. JWBG are the type to drag in a straight-laced suit off the sidewalk, sling one back with him and then get him stomping to the beat on dusty floorboards.
"I never was much a gamblin' man / But I gambled with your love," Warren croons in "Sara Jean," a story of love lost. "I thought it best to let you run for a while / But now I can't see you smile."
"Boise, Idaho" and "California Green" round out the album, with the former providing a party track and the latter adding an acoustic ditty that will stick to your cerebrum.
JWBG's upbeat sonorous chords, blended with Warrens' tremulous vocals and a syrupy mix of cited influences like Keller Williams and Mason Jennings make for tracks reminiscent of the Foggy Mountain Boys but with more eclectic instrumentation. And less jug blowin'.
JWBG shows progression since their self-titled album, with Something Stronger showing that they've sanded out the rough bits of their sound--fortunately, they haven't shaved off all the rawness that makes their music so much damn fun. It's precisely that level of grittiness, that lack of glitz, that makes a band like JWBG a different breed than their CMT counterparts.