The Whiskey Farm
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The Whiskey Farm

Madison, Wisconsin, United States | Established. Jan 01, 2010

Madison, Wisconsin, United States
Established on Jan, 2010
Band Americana Folk

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Music

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"Book of Matches Review"

Two years on from their well-received second recording From the Still, the Whiskey Farm return with Book of Matches, another winsome concoction of folk and bluegrass tunes spiced up with country and rock flavorings. The interval of the last two years saw original bassist Clark Stacer depart with Mike Steen joining up with the rest of the band: Jason Horowitz (guitar, vocals, mandolin, piano, harmonica), Brett Wilfrid (guitars, vocals,mandolin, banjo), Chantelle Thomas (vocals) and Matt Brown (drums).

From the Still led off in style with “The Boys of Forrest Hill,” a folk song dedicated to Madison’s historic Forrest Hill Cemetery and the civil war casualties who lie there. Book of Matches leads off in a similar vein with “Doc Holiday’s Last Christmas,” another cleverly-worded bit of historical storytelling, a medium in which Horowitz excels. Lyrics are Horowitz’s strong suit; there are few words wasted throughout, the songs flowing like poetry. The band doesn’t stray from their by-now-established formula and why would they? It’s clear that the Whiskey Farm are about as authentic as a musical group can be; the music is a clear reflection of who they are and that is a rare accomplishment. Like an old friend, you don’t want them to change, you just look forward to seeing them again.

There is good reason the Whiskey Farm picked up a Madison Area Music Award for Ensemble Vocals in 2013, the harmonic blend is sensational. Check out the almost Phish-y vibe of “Let Go” to get a taste of what great harmonizing can be. Credit backup vocalist Chantelle Thomas in large part, her voice blends beautifully with Horowitz’s while Wilfrid chimes in to make it three-part. Her sweet and soulful voice occasionally takes the lead while the acoustic guitar and mandolin accompaniment will have you swaying on your feet as well as in your head.

“Let Go” was co-authored by the departed bassist Stacer as well as one other, album-closer “Long, Long Year,” a song of loss and longing with Horowitz and Thomas trading vocal lines. Steen’s bowed bass is most effective, adding appropriate gravity to an intensely beautiful composition. Guest artist Ken Leiser adds sweet violin to this one. Leiser can also be heard on the Wilfrid tune “On Your Feet,” a joyful bluegrass-inspired romp with artfully furious bowing.

Shades of cynicism pop up in “What if I Don’t,” a biting take on shunning the system and breaking free of the preconceived notions of living the American way. Quite reminiscent of early Dylan and every bit as masterful lyrically.

Credit needs to be given to Blast House Studios and Landon Arkens. The mix is sublime; the vocals and instruments are perfectly conjoined, once again demonstrating Arkens’ knack for zeroing in on what makes a good band tick. There’s never a moment when the vocals feel separated or dubbed, the end experience sounding organically pure.

Book of Matches is another fine recording and the Whiskey Farm exemplify the Midwestern ethos. Madison has such a broad range of excellent musical acts across many genres and the Whiskey Farm are cementing a place of their own in the folk/rock idiom. “We knew that nothing lasts forever / But thought as long as we were together / Every door in this world would open wide,” Horowitz sings in “If You See Him.” All great local acts are an open door. Enjoy this one while you can. - Local Sounds


"From the Still Review"

It's a mild and breezy Wisconsin summer night and the kids and counselors at Camp Minikani are all gathered around the campfire making s'mores and singing songs. The warmth of friendship, even a sense of kinship, is in the air. Somebody's playing the guitar, others are dancing. Most are laughing over some shared experience from the long full day of activities. This is where Jason Horowitz, one of the members of Madison band The Whiskey Farm, first got bitten by the songwriting bug (and probably a few other kinds of bugs too). I started writing songs as soon as I could play three chords, he says. I played for my kids at camp, and eventually I started playing coffee shops. Horowitz describes a process of personal evolution since that beginning. When I was playing by myself, I did a lot of things with alternate tunings and tried to find unique sounds while focusing on lyric-driven songs, he says. Since playing as part of the band, though, he says his writing has changed to accomodate the shared sound--though still placing a premium on lyrics. The band is also starting to write more songs as a group, he says, which shifts the process somewhat. It's a little harder, but more fun, and more unpredictable, he adds. The songs on their new album From the Still definitely do have that original sitting-around-the-campfire quality: upbeat and acoustic guitar driven, with lots of classic harmonies and other instruments weaving in and out. As a whole, the album pays tribute to Madison and the surrounding areas. Horowitz, who has lived in St. Paul, Nashville, Massachusetts, and Milwaukee, says he loves Madison, and is planning to stay forever. I love the progressive community, and the way you get the small town feel but still have plenty to do, he says. The first track of From the Still has the most bluegrass feel on the album, including some impressive banjo picking courtesy of Brett Wilfrid. It's about the Forest Hill Cemetery and tells a little bit about some confederate soldiers who are buried there. Kiss your women hard and slow, drink one last whiskey from the still, we're heading north and it's time to go, you boys of Forest Hill, they sing. Track number nine, The Day the Tractors Came to Town is a song about the protests at the state Capitol that Horowitz wrote for his 2-year-old daughter. This song is acoustic guitar driven and interspersed with harmonica solos reminiscent of the Bob Dylan protest songs of the 60s. I was born in Madison, it's a friendly little town, unless you try to take our rights, then we will take you down, Horowitz sings in the song, with the feeling of shouting it from the rooftops. We are lucky to have a band in which all five members sing and write, Horowitz says. And on this album we decided to have one song that we wrote completely together from the start. The result is Saturday, which finishes the album and pushes the band's sound more into the folk rock realm. This final song is bluesier than the rest with a bit of a swagger and a sassy little dual piano/electric guitar solo section. It makes a nice surprise ending to an all-around pleasant collection of feel-good tunes. - Dane101.com


"Middle of America Review"

Like Rhett Miller, Jason Horowitz has a knack for flavoring his country-pop songs with playful humor. You can hear it on "Happy," the rollicking twang tune that declares, "I only drink when I'm happy/It just so happens I'm happy a lot."
Horowitz's deftness at transitioning to songs about love and regret recalls Miller, too. "Colorado" gets nostalgic for a loved one who's about to leave. The chorus offers sing-along catharsis: "Come on in, one more beer, who knows the next time we'll be here."
Brett Wilfrid's dexterous mandolin helps smooth the album's changing moods. The backing vocal harmonies of Jen Wilfrid and Chantelle Thomas add sensuality to songs like "Glow."
Horowitz grew up in Milwaukee and moved to Madison after college and post-college years spent in Massachusetts and Nashville. That's a big boost for the little music scene thriving here in the middle of America. - The Isthmus


Discography

Book of Matches (2015)
From the Still (2013)
Middle of America (2011)

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