Review – The Whipsaws – 60 Watt Avenue (self released)

In the South we sometimes forget about our kindred spirits way up North. Alaskans have many of the same qualities as Southerners. A strong sense of independence, a yearning for wide open spaces and a tendency to raise hell when the opportunity arises and a deep appreciation of American Southern musical heritage.

Straight outta Anchorage The Whipsaws sound like they could be from anywhere South of the Mason-Dixon instead of a few thousand miles to the North where for the past five years, they have traveled the vast isolated miles playing smoke-filled saloons and paying their dues on cold winter nights cultivating a uniquely Alaskan brand of country-rock.

Cribbing from the best that Southern rock offers – Neil Young, The Band, The Allman Brothers and Uncle Tupelo, singer/songwriter/guitarist Evan Phillips, bassist Ivan Molesky, guitarist/multi-instrumentalist Aaron Benolkin and drummer James Dommek, Jr. blend melodies, harmonies and sonic blasts in measures that make each song inspired with passion and not merely the aping of past glory.

The Whipsaws first full-length since their 2006 debut,Ten Day Bender, which reached #133 on the AMA chart, #28 on the Roots Music Report for Roots Rock, and debuting at #12 on the Euro Americana chart., 60 Watt Avenue carries the saound forward and has all their wares on display in fine form. The title track busts out big and then settles into a smooth vibe with crying bottle-neck guitar and Dommek’s clockwork drum work. As the song concludes Phillips screams out “I believe in rock and roll!” the band has left you no doubt that the sentiment is true.

Jesse Jane is a rollicking shuffle about wayward, boozy love that may or may not be about the porn star. The lonesome steel and fiddle laced Coming Home hearkens back to Uncle Tupelo’s Anodyne and Stick Around a love song with an askew melody that sound like it was written with a bottle a bottle of whiskey and a piano with the excellent “There are mysteries that surround you, that I don’t want to solve.” chorus of surrendering to ambiguity.

High Tide brings us to Allman Brothers wide-open road song terrain with a story of small-town woes featuring some great harmonica work. Lonesome Joe is a banjo and steel driven narrative of sage advice and life lessons from a Harley riding vet that is forged with beauty and sorrow. And The War continues the Allman-tinged aesthetic protest song that carries on the fine folk/country tradition of telling small stories to make a big point about humanity. Sinferno and Bar Scar blistering barroom brawlers right out of the hard-rock boogie Lynyrd Skynyrd playbook.

The band addresses one of their influences directly by covering Buffalo Springfield’s Mr. Soul – which was originally a great reworking of “(Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” the cover proves to be a worthy addition scorching wah-pedal leads sure to make Neil Young smile. Ode To Shakey is a moody analogue textured piece with a sloppy-jammed up lead that could have been lifted from a Mr. Young sound check. Seven Long Years is a dobro and harmonica blended gospel tune about temperance and redemption which features New West’s Tom Easton.

The Whipsaws can comfortably take their rightful place among current Southern Rock standard bearers like The Drive By Truckers and Alabama’s Caddle as they blaze a trail into the sunset.


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