The Whiskey Charmers frequently travel off the beaten path.
The Detroit alt country duo of Carrie Shepard (vocals, acoustic guitar) and Lawrence Daversa (electric guitar, harmony vocals) encounter western frontiers, far-away galaxies, budget motels, fiery gun-slinging duels, deserted highways and nightmarish monsters while getting Lost on the Range.
Their refreshing 10-track cinematic road trip serves as the ideal soundtrack for a vintage-like spaghetti western directed and musically curated by David Lynch. During Range, The Whiskey Charmers embark on several introspective journeys while tumbleweeds blow past, wildfires burn and classic country guitar tones reverberate in the distance.
“We didn’t have a plan originally of what songs were going to be on there, but we picked the ones we liked the best. We thought a lot about the order once we had all the songs, and we feel like it has a beginning and an ending the way we had it structured,” Shepard said. “The girl (Akriirose) who did the album art noticed all the words she kept hearing, and she kept getting this explorer vibe.”
Daversa quickly added, “Like Lewis and Clark.”
Getting ‘Lost on the Range’
For their third country expedition via Sweet Apple Pie Records, The Whiskey Charmers enlisted Brian Ferriby (drums), Johnny “Wolf” Abel (bass), Dan “Ozzie” Andrews (bass) and Rooftop Recording engineer and multi-instrumentalist David Roof to join the “wild west” entourage.
Together, they seamlessly blend scorching retro Americana, folk and rockabilly into timeless tales of love, revenge and self-discovery amidst vast, barren fields rolling in the mind’s eye. Their Range adventure begins amidst blazing struggles and deep space odysseys.
One of Range’s most striking tales includes “Galaxy,” a hypnotic, interstellar ode to solitary confinement in an expansive universal frontier. Intertwining melodic acoustic and electric guitar strums, vibrant glockenspiel, echoing chimes, delicate bass and light drums drift to and fro as Shepard and Daversa sing, “Well I’m lost at sea, lost in the galaxy/There’s no one else tonight, no one else but me/Still I float along, most of my hope is gone/Gotta find a rocky spot, that I can land upon.”
After spending time in space, The Whiskey Charmers softly (and cost-effectively) land in another part of Range – the world of budget chain hotels with a Roger Miller “King of the Road” flavor. “Super 8” opens with chic finger snaps, rhythmic bass, vivid electric guitar, light acoustic strums, soft drums and lush harmonies from Shepard and Daversa, “And if I wake up feeling awful, I’ll just make myself a waffle/Yeah you know I might be liable, to start reading up the bible.”
“I think we recorded 19 or 20 songs for this record, but we had to whittle down and cut songs that we liked. Some just didn’t work out, and there are some songs that we’ve tried to record more than once even for the last record,” Daversa said.
Not surprisingly, The Whiskey Charmers’ hand-picked songs are beautifully crafted throughout Range. Another vintage country adventure, “Crossfire,” exquisitely chronicles a cowgirl seeking revenge on an outlaw lover who steals her heart. Daversa’s haunting rock-tinged electric guitar solo echoes as Shepard’s determined vocals take her desperado down, “Because I cheat and rob and kill/I always lie, always will/I’m not the kind of girl you should follow.”
“We did the initial session with Ozzie, and we did a live session like the first record, and that was the only one that survived to the final recording. That’s the live track, and we put the intro on it, and then I put the lap steel guitar on at the end,” said Daversa about one his favorite Range tracks.
Like Daversa, Shepard admits “Crossfire” hits a bullseye on Range. “It’s an actual story, and we did a live-stream performance of that song, and someone on the internet gave us a pretty cool comment. They said if Game of Thrones’ Arya Stark had a western theme song, this would be it,” she said.
Meanwhile, The Whiskey Charmers conquer their inner demons on the bluesy Range closer, “Monsters,” which hauntingly combines fiery electric guitar, intermittent acoustic strums, sorrowful drums and light bass. In turn, Shepard beautifully sings, “They’re slipping down side streets into my windows/They’re under the bed, watching the clock/They hide in the closet, those little monsters/Waiting around to give me a shock.”
“We mostly have the same people who’ve worked on every album, and like not only playing, but with Dave at Rooftop. I feel like all of us keep learning every time, and Dave keeps improving his studio, too, and he keeps learning and adding more gear. It’s like a learning curve for everybody, and it’s fun to see everybody getting better,” Shepard said.
Becoming The Whiskey Charmers
Shepard and Daversa started honing their Motor City alt country sound as The Whiskey Charmers in late 2012. Both had played with Ferriby in other projects and teamed up not long after their drummer introduced them.
As a new duo, Daversa’s exquisite rock-influenced guitarmanship nicely complemented Shepard’s introspective songwriting and emotive storytelling on their 2015 countrified self-titled debut.
“We never really went into anything trying to sound a certain way. When we first got together, Carrie sent us probably 12 songs that were written as iPhone demos, and it was a matter of playing what I thought belonged there, and I think it kind of went in that direction. We’ve gone away from it and back toward it and away from it,” said Daversa, who’s influenced by AC/DC, KISS, George Jones and Hank Williams Jr.
The Whiskey Charmers’ striking self-titled debut recently found a second life in “Detroit: Become Human,” a 2018 video game developed by Quantic Dream and published by Sony Interactive Entertainment for PlayStation 4.
The sci-fi, choose-your-own adventure game follows the Motor City’s tale of advanced androids existing to serve mankind in 2038 and features three Whiskey Charmer songs – “Straight & Narrow,” “C Blues” and “Can’t Leave” – playing in Jimmy’s Bar.
“They did a really good job of mixing it in with the dialogue. It has the sound effects, the songs and the characters are talking. The songs really do lend to the ambiance of the whole scene. The cool thing about it is we’ve had the nicest comments from young people all over playing video games,” said Shepard, who started playing guitar in her 20s.
“Some guy is like, ‘I’m listening to your music in a café in Turkey,’ and people from all different countries all over the world independently say the same things to us, ‘Your music is so good, I hope more people find out about you, you guys deserve to have more fans, and please keep trying and making music.’”
The Whiskey Charmers continued down their Americana-tinged path and released their mesmerizing 2017 follow-up, The Valley, which won a Detroit Music Award for Best Country Recording. Their second sonic adventure starts in the “Desert,” roams westward through “The Valley,” speeds along on “Meet Me There” trains and follows nighttime “Full Moon” jaunts.
“On The Valley, I like ‘Full Moon’ so much not only because I like the song, but the way that we put it together in the studio was really cool because a lot of the songs are just acoustic guitar, electric guitar, bass and drums. I think there are five different guitar tracks on ‘Full Moon’ between the fuzzed-out thing, different leads, and this and that,” Daversa said.
With three releases under their shiny belt buckles, The Whiskey Charmers aren’t ready to hang up their cowboy hats and put their boots away anytime soon. Once the COVID-19 enemy gets shot down at high noon, Shepard and Daversa may return to the studio and hit the road for more spaghetti western expeditions.
“As soon as we were done recording this record, my wheels always start spinning about what we’re gonna do next, but it’s way too soon,” Daversa said.