Whisky Barrel Rocker and Sum People
By Courtney Millsap and Rory Noble
Courtney: Having seen Whisky Barrel Rocker in the many forms they have taken over the past year or so, I can say that I know what they sound like live. Their recently released EP provides an astounding example of what they sound like live. The sounds that emanate from the CD are clear and exuberant. It almost seems like the CD was produced by a professional recording artist in a huge studio.
True to Whisky Barrel Rocker fashion, no one sound, or performer, steals the stage. From song to song, different performances are highlighted, such as Greg “Harpy G” Miller on the song “Umbrella Town,” which is one of my favorite songs on the EP. However, I may be biased since I know the story behind the song and have felt the floor of KEOL shake as they practiced it last year in the production room downstairs.
From listening to Whisky Barrel Rocker practice in their early days in KEOL’s basement, to watching them perform live at their CD release show in January at Ten Depot, I can say that I am proud to be a fan. I can also say that I am proud to have my windows rolled down, blasting this EP while driving through town.
My personal connection is not as strong to Sum People, though I have seen them live on several occasions. Unlike WBR, their live sound and vibrancy does not completely translate to their own EP release. Even though the experience of seeing them live is not present, it does not mean that the CD is not phenomenal.
The reggae infused sounds of Sum People are present in the songs. However, the band is not just all about reggae, as evidenced by the song “Where Were You,” which has soft-rock characteristics. By far, my favorite song has to be “Please (Come Back to Me)” with its unique horn sounds and drum beats that get your adrenaline pumping.
Both Sum People and Whisky Barrel Rocker have produced CDs that the entire La Grande community should be proud of. These are two local bands that are making their way into the music industry, in a way that is ever so popular, by being indie artists.
Rory: Within a couple of weeks of each other in late December and early January, these two local bands released their first CDs. To say I was excited about the releases is an understatement, especially after spending quite a few nights over the past couple of years hanging out at JSD’s or Ten Deep or the EOU tennis courts or Riverside Park listening to these bands play live.
Often in my past, I have purchased an album, listened to it dozens of times and then gone to a concert by that performer. Something was always lost in the performance. Whether it was the studio production or just unusual ways that certain songs were performed, it was definitely different.
After seeing these two bands live so often, I felt the CD releases were much more “fresh” sounding. I’d heard all the songs many times, but the sound on the CD was very good; very professional.
A lot of the time we lose Greg’s harmonicas solos in a live WBR performance, but not on the CD. Sometimes Kailey and Matt’s horn section take over a Sum People song, but not on the CD. The engineering work is outstanding on both.
“Umbrella Town” has always been one of my favorites from Whisky Barrel Rocker. In fact, it was the first song I ever heard the band perform live. The version on the CD is a true to that first time as I remember. My personal favorite has to be “Me and my 6 String.” As a guitar player myself, the sentiment of the song and the guitar work speak to me on a very personal level.
My favorite Sum People song from the CD is “Where Were You” simply because I enjoy something different occasionally. I love the horn section just as I have always loved the sound of horns backing rock music. Every once in a while, a band can throw a curveball at you, and that is a good thing.
I have followed these two bands for the past two years and have gotten to know most of the members. I can honestly say that I am proud of what they have accomplished so far in their young careers. Putting oneself on stage for all to critique is one thing; creating a lasting performance on CD that will last a lifetime is something altogether different.
My hope is that 50 years down the road, my great-grandchildren will open my box of CDs and discover the music that I have enjoyed throughout my life. I am pleased to say that both Whisky Barrel Rocker and Sum People have a place in that box of memories.
For music and tour information on both bands, visit reverbnation.com and search for both bands.