The Whiskey Charmers are either a guitar-driven duo or, if you catch them at the right show, that same duo with a drummer. I saw them at Wolverine State Brewing Co., minus the drummer, for a very entertaining evening of originals and covers that spanned more than fifty songs.
The duo is Carrie Shepard on acoustic guitar and lead vocals, with Lawrence Daversa picking on electric, lap steel, resonator, and even Shepard’s acoustic guitar from time to time, while adding backing and harmony vocals.
They are quick to admit they are difficult to define, but their sound has been described as Country Noir, which isn’t inaccurate. I liken them to Gillian Welch and David Rawlings in terms of basic genre and construction, but with a more wide-open sound and spookier tempo—Daversa’s guitar notes are spaced so they seem to hang in the air, creating an ambience reminiscent of Chris Isaak’s Heart Shaped World.
The band’s original material is quite good–it does not seem at all out of place sandwiched between classic Johnny Cash and Patsy Cline covers. In “Vampire” Shepard sings about a guest who came to stay the night, admitting, “I guess I knew that he was a vampire, all the signs they said beware; I guess I know that he was a vampire, but that night I didn’t care.” “Fifth of Jim Beam” is a clever and catchy song that chronicles chasing Jack Daniels with ever-increasing amounts of Jim Beam. The standout number, however, was “Neon Motel Room,” which sounds like it belongs on a mix tape for driving Route 66 at night with the top down.
While they claim the band formed in 1608–and has since been aging in a bourbon cask–the Whiskey Charmers began in 2013. Shepard says that they started as a larger band and morphed into a duo/sometimes trio. Brian Ferriby, the drummer, is still listed as a band member, though you may or may not see him at any given performance. When Ferriby does play, Shepard says, his addition is seamless, and he does play on the band’s debut album. Shepard and Daversa have toured as far away as Wyoming, and last November the band was featured on 107.1FM’s Tree Town Sound. I highly recommend catching the Whiskey Charmers at a local bar–they’re at the Old Town on Sunday, October 18–before they’re off to Nashville or charging for a venue like the Ark.