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Southern Gothic Music and Whiskey

Posted by Colonel Bourbon on

It goes without saying that whiskey is featured in the lyrics of many country songs, not to mention many genres of songs. But, with Halloween spirits in the air, we wanted to chat about southern gothic music and whiskey.

What is southern gothic music

Southern Gothic -- also known as dark country -- is a subgenre of music, art that takes place in the American South. As Wikipedia says, the common themes "include deeply-flawed, disturbing or eccentric characters... decayed or derelict settings, grotesque situations and other sinister events..." In literature, authors include Truman Capote, William Faulkner (favorite drink bourbon and Mint Julep), Tennessee Williams and of course Flannery O'Connor.

Besides dark country, southern gothic music is also known as gothic country, gothic Americana, and the Denver sound, on account of "alternative country" that blossomed in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Southern gothic combines gospel, blues, and most notably a lot of alcohol, It's like an accompanying musical instrument. It harks back to the legend of Robert Johnson at the Crossroads, selling his soul to the devil.

A good Spotify playlist in this cool genre is the Southern Gothic Railroad. It opens with Colter Wall's "The Devil Wears a Suit and Tie." 

(The Southern Gothic Railroad playlist on Spotify. American whiskey lubricates the list.)

 The song is followed by the Dead South's "Recap," recorded live from the Revolution Concert Hall, Garden City, ID.

"Well I've been drinkin' here for so many damn years
Trying to recap my life
Every night trouble finds my sight and I can't help but fight
With a bottle of Jack and a tin of skoal
I'll be stickin' around
Until the day a man will put me away and I can rest my soul"

The Dead South are a band from Saskatchewan, Canada, with guitar, mandolin, banjo, and cello that has called themselves Mumford and Sons' evil twins. Many people discovered them through their "In Hell I'll be in Good Company" music video on YouTube, which as we write this has over 270 million views:

The Dead South make a few appearances on the Southern Gothic Railroad playlist, with their songs, "Banjo Odyssey" and "Alabama People." 

Whiskey is throughout the playlist, either directly or indirectly referenced.

The seventh song is "Heal Me" by Sarah Shook and the Disclaimers:

"There’s a hole in my heart ain’t nothin’ here can fill
But I just keep thinkin’ surely the whiskey will
And if I keep on drinkin’ ‘til daybreak finds my windowsill
Surely the whiskey will"

We didn't scour the entire list for the word whiskey, but suffice to say the pour lubricates it. It's an eclectic collection, with Johnny Cash, John Lennon, Towns Van Zandt, U2 ( a bluegrass-fueled cover of "Pride" by Dierks Bentley and a live version by the Irish band, of  "God's Country.")

On the list is also "One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer," sung by Johnny Lee Hooker. The song, written by Rudy Toombs in the 1950s, has been performed several times, including by George Thorogood.

Johnny Lee Hooker sings:

"One bourbon, one scotch, and one beer
Well, my baby, she gone, gone tonight
I ain't seen the girl since night before last
I wanna get drunk, get off of my mind"

"Good Corn Liquor"  by the Steeldrivers is in lucky number 13 spot, as we write this. It is an evolving playlist.  Corn of course makes up at least 51% of the bourbon mash bill, aged in charred new oak barrels, as required by US law. Although the song is about the moonshine:

"Well the sun don't shine
On a moonshine still
Copper line hiding in the side of a hill
It'll get you there
It'll get you there quicker
Fruit jar full of that good corn liquor"

About the SGF Playlist

"Southern gothic/dark country, acoustic & alternative Americana, a railroad journey of country, rock, blues, folk, bluegrass, gospel, whiskey. Dead South, Colter Wall, Devil Makes Three, Old Crow Medicine Show, Johnny Cash, Jack White, U2, Lil Nas, Tom Waits, Nick Cave, Dierks Bentley."

"It really is a railroad journey traveling throughout all the music that has over the years contributed to the genre, in one way or another. In some cases, just adding to the feel of the list. If you like Southern Gothic music, by any name, you will enjoy this list," the curator said. "Whiskey is a lead character in so much of the music, as a protagonist, as an antagonist, and both.

Southern Gothic Whiskey Tee Collection

Because of the genre's close, soulful connection to American whiskey, Colonel Bourbon recently added a collection that celebrates it: Our Southern Gothic Skulduggery Collection. It reads:

"There are no greater spirits than the distilled kind. We imagine William Faulkner or Flannery O'Connor with a glass of bourbon next to their typewriter, bringing their tales to life. (Although from what we hear, O'Connor preferred coke in coffee) and she was in bed by 9PM.

(Customer photo of tee from Colonel Bourbon's Southern Gothic Skulduggery T-Shirt Collection, for Halloween night with their favorite pour, Maker's Mark.)

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