Moonshine Sway
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Moonshine Sway

Milwaukee, Wisconsin, United States | SELF

Milwaukee, Wisconsin, United States | SELF
Band Americana Rock


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This band has not uploaded any videos



"Moonshine From Milwaukee--A Heady Brew of Amp Melting Guitars & Heart Melting Songs"

Moonshine from Milwaukee.

A heady brew of amp melting guitars and heart melting songs.

Seven Years is a record that splits Alt Country right down the middle. The music is rock. The songs are country. Simple. Reading the lyrics to '1000 Miles' off the page you could be in Kristofferson territory.... 'Thousand miles & nowhere, Diesel groans- all alone, your perfume on my coat' or 'Bottle' ..... 'You can see I've got a problem Jesus don't seem keen on me. I do more cussin' than praying hoping whiskey will save me'. However, set them to the music and suddenly we are thinking Buffalo Tom, Green on Red or The Bottle Rockets. Bass booms, guitar squeals & singer rasps... beautiful.

The sonic variety tends to be limited to fast song/ slow song,
however, if it ain’t broke etc. The most interesting attempts at a change of scenery are either the rock hoe- down of 'Garden State Heartbreak', or 'Gin Mill'; although listeners, particularly here in the UK, may struggle to get past the latter’s resemblance to Peter Bruntnells 'Jurassic Parking Lot'.

The songs are written, in the main, by vocalist Tom Vollman & tend to deal with the disintegration of his relationships. You would think that after so many, his repertoire of responses to such situations would extend beyond driving out to a motel & getting absolutely battered on cheap whiskey. That said. I have been through the mill a few times myself & don't have too
many worthwhile alternatives at my disposal !!! You're singing to me Tom.

The recording itself is the thing that really shows Moonshine Sways class. Producer Chuck Frkovich has retained a garage feel to the tracks showing the band to be well rehearsed and capturing them live. Just like in ye olde days. As a result, power comes from the feel & energy in the performance rather than multi- tracking & overdubs. The production remains dry and
an apparent absence of effects let you know you are in the hands of a band/ producer that musically really know their stuff. Taken together, it really whets the appetite for the live show. The only distraction I found was in the drumming. Scot Snarskis style is a little too percussive for my tastes. On occasions he sits a fraction behind the beat & changes his hi- hat/ cymbal patterns every four or eight bars. On the driving tracks like 'Faultline' this can be a little
distracting. In such a small band I personally feel that the drummer needs to be a little more of an anchor. Felt & not heard (so much). Still, that is small criticism for an engaging record. It is a familiar style to that enjoyed by virtually all visitors to this site, and as such I can see no harm
in recommending this as a fine addition to the Americana- UK catalogue.

Peter Gow - Americana UK (London, UK)

"Seven Years--Moonshine Sway"

Seven Years

Moonshine Sway

Website Links:

Label: Self Released

Available: Now

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed By: Carl Anders

The problem with some press info you get is that it can be slightly misleading as to what the finished product is like. However, sometimes, like Moonshine Sway, it can be a pleasant surprise to discover that rather than the
promised "a vintage blend of cow punk nestling the finer elements of old-time country, punk, and alternative rock into a forceful package of dirty, bleeding guitars, thumping bass, explosive drums; and ragged vocals" and the numerous newcomers similarly inspired, that it actually is a vintage blend, but of much more.

Although it does have nods to Uncle Tupelo and Slobberbone, the main sound is much more early 90's Boston than anything else. More specifically there's a sound and feel of the early J Mascis produced works of Buffalo Tom with all the raw rock and roll contained in songs like Sunflower Suit and the gritty vocals that mellowed on subsequent Buffalo Tom records. All this of course with a twang.

Like Buffalo Tom, the songs talk about rejection and dejection, all well written, crafted and performed songs. Songs that promise to be powerful and blistering when performed live. Even though the band's own press talks about Uncle Tupelo (and beer and whiskey quite a lot), if it's not too sacrilegious to say it, the songs are more sophisticated than that. Rather than piling on a large amount of bitterness into the brew, just like Buffalo Tom there's more of a sad acceptance to the lyrics, resulting in a softer edge. (Not to be confused with watered down
Dawson's Creek "Rock and Roll" I hasten to add.)

All of which, naturally, makes for a very good record indeed. - Alt.Country Tab (London, UK)

"Moonshine Sway"

Moonshine Sway are best heard through the amber filter of a brew.
Although they are clearly a bar band -- and the best bar band you're likely to hear any time soon, at that -- their genre is not so easily
defined. They are not quite rock or alt-country: neither truly punk in
spirit or sound, nor overtly rockabilly. They are a combination of all of these elements, and unlike other bands that bring together such disparate sounds, they are more than the sum of their abilities and influences.

From the minute you put it on, Seven Years is the best jukebox you've ever heard -- effortlessly general in sound and specific in scope. Vocalist and lyricist Tom Vollman uses precise details and his dirty, gravelheavy voice to make the album's common themes (death, love, losing and longing) real and immediate.

"Austin City Nights" shows off the ways in which the elements
combine. Over Bob Berry's round walking basslines and Chris Dorch's
subtle guitar work, Vollman's voice scrapes along like a drunken
Springsteen, describing a loss that is heartbreaking in its commonality:
"I stare at her pictures in the dead of the night / Her promise means
nothing to me / Well she told me lately / She'd be home by now / But
nobody misses her much." Then, later, "I passed out in Memphis, can't find my way home / These pills they can't help me, can't end all my dreams." The aforementioned elements are stellar, but the binding bit
here is a short organ solo that appears at the beginning and end of the track, bookending the song in proper decay.

Not all of the songs wallow. Some, such as "Garden State Heartbreak",
run with twang and verve, encouraging the unseen audience to dance and drink. Here, the effervescent guitar riff rolls faster than the snare fills, an impressive feat that keeps the beat moving forward and the feet on the floor.

This is an album to drink to, to drive to, to cry to, to wallow and
celebrate with. It is meant to be as close as a friend and as attentive as a bartender. Order up and let it out.

-- Tyson Lynn

SPLENDID MEDIA GROUP - Splendid (Chicago, IL)

"Seven Years"

Moonshine Sway

Seven Years

by Jeremy M. Rottgen

They say the best homemade wine comes from the Appalachian Mountains. Then there’s the white lightning from the local trailer park that hits harder than most. When it comes to doublewide-inspired music, Moonshine Sway is a hefty swig of Milwaukee’s alt-country scene.

Seven Years is Moonshine Sway’s first full-length effort. Despite spending more than enough time in bars, Moonshine Sway is more than just a bar band. Some of the tracks sound like pure rockabilly, while others leave the music open to slower riffs. The vocal stylings of singer Tom Vollman lend a classic rock feel, while the sway of a slide guitar keeps things country-fried.
“1000 Miles” kicks off with pure whiskey-fueled rockabilly. “Austin City Nights” and “Chelsea” introduce the softer side of these corn-liquor heroes. “Gin Mill” is an excellent example of country guitar blended with uncountry vocals. A good number of the tracks keep things mellow on Seven Years, but “Faultline” picks up the
tempo again before the end.

The good thing about Moonshine Sway is that you get twang from the guitars, not from a singer’s throat. It may not be traditional country or rock, but it’s fine for folks who like to relax, drink and listen to songs of heartbreak
and booze.

--Jeremy M. Rottgen

- Vital Source Magazine (Milwaukee, WI)

"Roots Rock Heroes"

Moonshine Sway is a young band from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, though the four bandmembers do not all come from there originally. The band, together for two years,
deliver their debut CD titled "Seven Years" in a style which we can classify immediately under the heading roots-rock.

They play a catchy type of alt-country that will certainly
appeal to fans of Uncle Tupelo, Slobberbone, and the
Bottlerockets. Tom Vollman has the perfect voice for this music. By this I
mean the "grain" in his vocal cords, from which he demands quite a lot as witnessed by a certain amount of huskiness. Chris Dorch delivers the solid guitar parts that are always melodious, but he might deliver his lead work with a bit
more flexibility. The rhythm section - Scott Snarski (drums) and Bob Berry (bass) - is solid with abundant power. Together they provide the 14 songs on their album "Seven Years" (own management), a mix of mid- and uptempo guitar songs, with regularly irresistible choruses where you can find the influences of old-time country, punk, and
alternative rock. Vollman lovingly tells stories of workingclass
life and drinking problems on these not unpleasant compositions.

As mentioned, the electric guitars of Dorch and Vollman dominate, yet Berry's bass work is mixed noticeably to the fore in this Chuck Frkovich-produced album. - Rootstime (Halen, Belguim)

"Life Is Hard--Give It A Good Backing Track"

Moonshine Sway--Seven Years

by Jeremy Berg

Alt-country is a funny beast, ranging from the gothic Christian bluegrass of 16 Horsepower to the
old-school-country-isn’t-really-different-from-punk-rock-here-I’ll-show-you of Jason and The Scorchers or Uncle Tupelo. The only real rules are 1) stay true to country’s heart and 2) try something different.

Moonshine Sway fits admirably into the canon in both respects. Lyrically, in fact, they’re a little too tied down to country traditions. Almost every song is about drinking, heartbreak, and loneliness, and in that respect, they can be hard to tell apart. The music, however, is another story. The sound most closely resembles 1970s L.A. country rock like The Eagles or Jackson Browne, but rootsier and with the excellent
spin of the Police’s inverted power trio formula. Bassist Bob Berry frequently plays the lead line while
singer/songwriter Tom Vollman and Chris Dorch supply chord washes on their guitars, and on tracks like
“Chelsea” and “Garden State Heartbreak,” where the guitars carry the melody, he maintains a muscular, busy presence without coming too far forward.

There’s a wide range to the sound as well. At almost an hour in ength, Seven Years is a full musical journey, going from mid-tempo to ballads to roots rock rave-ups. It also traverses the country—listen for place names, and you’ll hear Austin, New Jersey, Memphis, New York, Boston, Georgia, and all points in between.

Song after song reminds us that pain is, literally, everywhere, but the warm production and gorgeous
playing keep things from becoming depressing.

Life is hard. Give it a good backing track. - Riverwest Currents (Milwaukee, WI)

"Milwaukee's Alt.Country Darlings"

Moonshine Sway

Moonshine Sway are a four piece Milwaukee, Wisconsin band formed in the winter of 2002, with the intention of breeding a subtle mix that tips its hat at “old-time country, punk, and alternative rock”. The material on this eponymous EP trawls the familiar thematic suspects of drifting, drinking, heartbreak and guilt. The four tracks on this impressive sampler demonstrate an uncanny ability to create efficient songs that manage to say a lot and travel a long way in a short space of time. The music is economical and contains the classic blend of guitars bass and drums that produce a pleasant mid point that demonstrates what altcountry really is about…edgy rock and roll with a country twist.

Vocalist Tom Vollman has one of those rasping, emotive voices that seem to proliferate in the altcountry genre…and long may they run! Embodying a lifetime of living in a simple exhortation it is one of the factors that help generate the potent attitude in these songs. On the slower numbers, he sounds like Mellencamp, on the more up-tempo ones he teeters into the Springsteen badlands, but the overall feel leans more on the Uncle Tupelo or Slobberbone punk ethic than blue collar rock. The rest of the band delivers in just the right portions; the guitar is effective and sparing, the drums are powerful, though occasionally straying a bit too far up in the mix and the bass winds its way around the melodies in a lively and resourceful manner.

First track “Chelsea” plunders a mid tempo 4/4 country rock path that is a hallmark of this genre, a gentle harmony helping to carry the lead vocal with its complimentary backing. “Austin City Nights” has a distinctive texture as suggested by the title, its balladic formula matching the premise of drunken heartache and sorrow. “Faultline” has a more aggressive punch to it than the other tracks, the ride cymbals carrying the pace as Vollman growls his way through this energetic rocker. The attitude gives the song a tremendous dynamic that brings to mind the Clash when they used to rock ‘n’ roll rather than swagger. This short set comes all too quickly to its conclusion with “Reservoir Dog” which opens with a wonderfully brooding and raggedly lonesome guitar which soon gives way to a reverb heavy jangle that carries a touch of lightness along with it. The theme of restlessness, escape and drifting a familiar one but seldom dealt with such panache, something that would have fitted lyrically well on Richmond Fontaine’s ‘Winnemucca’ album and without doubt is the best track proffered here.

This is a band still in its formative stages, their sound is well formed and the songs have grit as well as melody making this package a teasing sampler for what the band can no doubt offer. The production is good, though maybe the drums are a little too ‘up there’, the whole rhythm section package could do with being beefed up a tad, but all the elements are there, it is just a question of getting the formula just right. The tone here is close to that employed by Drag the River on their ‘Closed’ set and when taken as a whole the four tracks here whilst probing other influences stylistically at least matches that bands sound more than any other. Moonshine Sway are a band that play music with heart and soul and a whole heap of whiskey, it is a satisfying experience listening to these four tracks and I for one will be anticipating a full length release with bated breath…much is promised!

--Doug Floyd
- Alt.Country Tab (London, UK)

"Moonshine Sway--Hard At Work, Hard At Play"

With Moonshine Sway, there are no frills and no cheap gimmicks. This straightforward, hard-playing band draws upon elements of rock’n roll, the blues, and old-time country music in developing their own style—a style that reflects the gritty underbelly of a working-class city like Milwaukee.

Moonshine Sway alternately explores the darkness of unmet expectations along with the flicker of hope for those who continue to press forward. Lead singer and guitarist Thomas James Vollman reaches deep inside his soul in lyrics that confront the realization that the life people hope for often exists just outside their grasp.
Vollman points out that living in Milwaukee has a direct impact on Moonshine Sway’s music. “There’s a divisive punk undertone to Milwaukee, which…gives the scene a blue collar rock’n roll feel…The city definitely has an influence on our music.”

Those familiar with the scene will sense the influence of pioneering acts such as Doug Sahm and Uncle Tupelo. However, Moonshine Sway is not content to simply exist under such a label. “Milwaukee’s (music) scene,” says Vollman, “is steeped in tradition—a tradition of exploration bent on the crossing of genre ‘boundaries.’”

Vollman’s voice, which sounds as if it were soaked in whiskey after a long day on the job, is complemented by Chris Dorch’s deft guitar play and backing vocals. Bob Berry’s bass serves as the perfect accompaniment to the guitar work of Dorch and Vollman. In addition, Scot Snarski’s intense and energetic drum play explodes on the stage providing the driving force behind the band.
In just seven short months since Moonshine Sway’s inception, this Milwaukee-based band has already managed to develop a loyal following among Chicago’s indie music crowd by playing such venues as Coyle’s Tippling House, the Note, and the Underground Lounge.

While Moonshine Sway enjoys the proximity and breadth of the Chicago music scene, they are intent upon proving themselves in Milwaukee as well. The band has already achieved some local radio play with “Chelsea,” the first song off their self-titled EP. While this EP is not available in stores, CDs are readily available at live performances.

Moonshine Sway has a particular interest in Riverwest. Their first live performance was in early February at Quarter’s. Since then, Moonshine Sway has performed at Shank Hall and the Globe as well as Riverwest venues such as Linneman’s, Mad Planet, and the Riverwest Commons.

When asked what draws Moonshine Sway to Riverwest, Vollman responded, “Riverwest is a great area. It’s a thriving collective of folks who appreciate creativity, and enjoy the process of (artistic) growth…The community atmosphere is solid—there’s a true sense of involvement and belonging, which contributes to a great vibe, particularly in regard to live music.”
- Riverwest Currents (Milwaukee, WI)

"Moonshine Sway--Milwaukee's Alt.Country"

Alt-country-rock band Moonshine Sway has earned a reputation for primo live performances over the last year with a relentless schedule that has taken them across the country. Wilco meets Whiskeytown with a style that ranges from foot stompin' to an almost pop-punk edge when lush choruses collide with gritty honky-tonk splendor.

--Lane Klozer
- Shepherd Express (Milwaukee, WI)

"Milwaukee Blue Collar Rock"

As Milwaukee blue-collar as a can of PBR, Moonshine Sway brings their brand of (rollicking tunes of heartache, boozing and the open road) to the Circle A, Friday, July 22nd. Indebted as much to the songwriting strain of Uncle Tupelo, as the country-punk ilk of The Bottle Rockets, Sway’s old-timey, roots Americana feel truly belies the band’s age and experience. Promoting 2004’s first-rate studio effort, Seven Years, Sway is sure to leave their catchy pop hooks and whiskey-drenched twang buzzing in your ears.

--Todd Lazarski - Shepherd Express (Milwaukee, WI)


This Is Alt.Country, Volume 2--2004 (Shut Eye Records--Atlanta, GA)

Seven Years--2004 (Self-Released)



In honor of simplicity-the Queen of the Underground-and to avoid becoming tongue-tied and twisted in a haze of otherwise meaningless details, senseless inuendo, and baseless rumors, it’s always best to stick to the facts, and present them as close to reality as humanly possible. That said, here are the facts as we know, love and tell them...

After relocating to Milwaukee, WI following the demise of the acclaimed, St. Louis-based Hart Crane, Tom Vollman (Vocals, Guitar) founded Moonshine Sway with like-minded contemporaries Chris Dorch (Guitar, Vocals) and Bob Berry (Bass) in order to, “put the heart back in the fading sun and draw streams of guilt from your ex-lover’s eyes.” Taking their name from a Goshen (Ohio) Township rural route notorious for backfield copper stills, the band quickly gained critical appeal for its rollicking live shows that marry swift rock tempos, punk ilk, and tight, power-pop hooks.

During the Spring of 2004, while subsisting off of small, slightly rationed quantities of cornbread, Canadian Club and grape popsicles, the band recorded their debut full-length, seven years, which has been hailed by critics in the United States, Europe and Japan. To pigeon-hole their sound is like trying to catch a hurricane with a butterfly net-they get loud; they get quiet; they chime like bellewether sweethearts trapped in the Macy’s Parade; and they shake like lonely autumn saviors.

Over the course of the past three years, Moonshine Sway has shared a bill or two, dancing in supermarket aisles (while remaining both civil and dignified) with the likes of The Bottle Rockets, Richmond Fontaine, Drag the River, P.W. Long, Thad Cockrell, The Derailers, Kevin Kinney, Wayne Hancock, Chris Scruggs, The Hackensaw Boys, and a number of others they’re too careless and/or cautious to mention. Moonshine Sway has performed across the U.S. and Europe, in one incarnation or another, gracing the splinter shacks and cul-de-sacs of New York, Los Angeles, St. Louis, Chicago, Paris, Prague, Cincinnati, and Minneapolis, just to name a few.

In a concerted effort to reduce static pollution on the airwaves, the band has been spinning in regular rotation on the likes of KDHX (St. Louis, MO); WOXY (Cincinnati, OH); WLUW (Chicago, IL); WLUW (Milwaukee, WI); KZSU (Stanford, CA); MOJO Dreams 105.5 (Antwerp, Belgium); Rootstime (The Netherlands); 104.3 Goldenflash (The Netherlands); WMSE (Milwaukee, WI); KALX (Berkley, CA); and myriad others there between. Moonshine Sway joined Jay Farrar (Uncle Tupelo, Son Volt) on the Shut Eye Records (Atlanta, GA) compilation, This Is Alt. Country, Vol. 2, which peaked at ..92 on the AMA Americana Chart.

Moonshine Sway was nominated for a WAMI (Wisconsin Area Music Association) Award as ‘Rock Group of the Year’.

For further information concerning Moonshine Sway please visit For booking or press inquiries, please contact Marcus Roberts via e-mail at