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CEMENTING PUNK ROCK TO COUNTRY

<p>The People&amp;#8217;s Whiskey perform during their CD release party Saturday night at the Double Down Saloon. The Henderson-based band is, from left, Steve El Premier DeZarn, Justin Bridges, Cody Leavitt with Luis Marcelo Mendez on drums.</p>

The People&#8217;s Whiskey perform during their CD release party Saturday night at the Double Down Saloon. The Henderson-based band is, from left, Steve El Premier DeZarn, Justin Bridges, Cody Leavitt with Luis Marcelo Mendez on drums.

Cody Leavitt, the People's Whiskey bassist, gives 'em a fistfull.
Cody Leavitt, the People's Whiskey bassist, gives 'em a fistfull.

The People’s Whiskey gives the people what they want.

The Henderson-based foursome has their CD release party at the Double Down Saloon last Saturday night, sharing the bill with some of their SquidHat Records label mates. Like eponymously named CD, the People’s Whiskey cements the long-time relationship between punk rock and country.

Punk has always had one foot in country, sometimes as a joke, but often, as they say, joking on the square. That is, it’s a serious crossover. Members of X, one of the original punk bands from LA, had a full-time side project with the Knitters, a straight-up country twang band. The original outlaw country movement led by Johnny Cash had a huge influence on many punk and punk-esque bands, among them Social Distortion. And it is now practically a career requirement for aging punks to form country bands.

These days, you’d be hard-pressed to find someone at the Country Music Awards who has heard of Steve Earle or Townes Van Zandt, but the outlaws know that good country, like punk, is best when it’s about real people, real problems, real dreams and real life. So there’s a thematic parallel there.

The People’s Whiskey aren’t aging and gray (or dead) like the original punk rockers or outlaw country singer-songwriters, and they’re definitely loud and brash, but they’ve got an ear for the commonality of the genres. Introducing the band at the Double Down, bass player Cody Leavitt thoughtfully noted that they would be playing punk rock, but including some country tunes for the crusties* in the crowd. “Thanks, man!” I responded enthusiastically.

One of the best, funniest, twangiest and, sadly, real-life songs is on their new disc. “Drunk Dial” is going on my best-of country songs. But it should be noted that the whole album is pretty strong. Another countrified song, “Another Lonely Night,” is another winner.

The CD has numerous references to bar life, getting messed up, drinking, getting drunk, getting wasted, etc., with songs like “Fist Fights and Miller Lites,” “Pills,” “Bar Esteem,” and “Tall Can.” And heartbreak, of course, with “Empty Promises and Broken Dreams” and the afore-mentioned country songs. So again, they make that connection between punk rock and true country music.

On a number of these tracks lead singer Justin Bridges sounds eerily similar to Kevin Kinney of Drivin’ ‘N’ Cryin’, the Georgia-based band that has fused hard rock, southern rock and country since 1985. DNC has never gotten the recognition and money that they deserve, but such are the vicissitudes of the music industry.

But the People’s Whiskey fellers, who may now be on the road to fame and fortune, make sure they won’t forget their Henderson roots with the song “Hendo Two Step” on the CD. CL

*CityLife's correspondent, whose ears were ringing from the Double Down musical mayhem, really thought he heard Cody say another word that starts with "p" and has two "ssses." Which is sometimes mistakenly attributed to more musically mellow post-punk music. - LR