The Bourbon Dynasty
The Bourbon Dynasty
Night World Records
It's good to have Charles Walston back making music. Almost a decade ago, Walston's previous band, the Vidalias, were part of a roots and country music resurgence in Atlanta.
"The scene in Atlanta was cool," he says. "The Star Bar was our home for years. People like Slim and the Diggers, and Deacon Lunchbox were doing their thing. So there was an awakening of interest in country music and all things redneck. I think it was Southern kids discovering their heritage and taking pride in it."
The Vidalias cut a couple of great records and then disappeared. The fact was that Walston had a family and a day job as a newspaper reporter so the Vidalias' touring schedule forced him into temporary retirement.
The Florida-bred Walston next moved a bit further north to Washington DC where he works as a speechwriter for the NEA. After almost a decade of radio silence, he formed the Bourbon Dynasty. Fans of great songwriting are better off because of it.
In many ways, the Bourbon Dynasty and the Vidalias are similar which makes good sense because both are/were vehicles for Walston's songwriting. The difference between them is that the Vidalias became a band whereas the Bourbon Dynasty remains a collective of musicians that present Walston's songs. "It was actually a lot of fun making a record without a regular band, because I got to think about what would sound best on each song and then go for it," explains Walston.
The classic country sound that the Vidalias mined is still to be heard on the Bourbon Dynasty. The Habit of Doing Wrong, The Best That I Can Do, Stop To Reconsider, rand Things You Put Me Through all swing in a way that makes you want to grab your gal and two-step across the dance floor.
However, the Dynasty's broader musical palette allows Walston's songs to shine in varied settings. Even on Habit the presence of horns sends a declaration that there will be a little bit of soul mixed in with the country sounds.
On Faith Alone, There's a Whisper, and Not The Crying Kind could be lost tracks from the 60's soul era. One can imagine Solomon Burke making any of them his own. Whereas Girl in the Checkout Line is a wry tale of man with his eye on a grocery store employee. This song has a great rollicking feel reminiscent of the Georgia Satellites in their heyday.
The two songs that end the record may best show how Walston's studio experiment has paid off, especially with the fantastic use of horns. Behind Closed Doors (not the Charlie Rich classic) uses the horns in a boozy and bluesy way almost in the mode of Tom Waits but something wholly its own. This is followed by Pay The Price which ends the record with a full-on Exile on Main Street-stomp.
Gram Parsons has always been a reference point for Walston. Parsons blended country, soul, and rock to form what he called Cosmic American Music. The Bourbon Dynasty is Walston's way of bring this all back home by placing Ernest Tubb next to the Stones at their Chuck Berry best.
Low Tolerance for High Maintenance has a great title and serves as a statement of purpose. One can imagine Johnny Cash cutting this song. As Walston captures the listener with his ode to simplicity, we can only be happy that he is back making music again.
- Jim Markel