Whiskey Tango | Groggy Mountain Mornings | Review

Article Contributed by Ryan Neeley | Published on Thursday, December 13, 2012

Honing their chops each Tuesday evening for a full year at the famed Denver jamband venue Quixote's, Denver based quintet Whiskey Tango became known as a "must-see live" type of band.  Much of the group's show is based around live improvisation, and attempting to convey this energy and passion to an album has proved troublesome for many bands tagged with this phrase; however, the band's much anticipated debut release Groggy Mountain Mornings is a proper introduction to this high energy group of talented musicians.  You see, while all of the members genuinely appreciate traditional bluegrass music, Whiskey Tango is NOT your father's string band.  They are big fans of the Grateful Dead, and their influence is apparent throughout the album, with keyboards and African drums sharing the spotlight with a fiery banjo and mandolin, ripping harmonies, and thick bass notes intertwined with substantial lyrics.  Think Mumford and Sons on steroids.

The album begins with an upbeat selection, Betwixt, which showcases an instrument not found in most bluegrass bands - keyboards.  Coal Creek Shakedown follows with a banjo and piano buildup releasing into a high energy, foot stomping pick-fest that any traditional bluegrass lover would appreciate.  The band loses no steam with Renaissance Beauty, another "feel-good" song with reggae and calypso thrown in the mix using African drums backed by a soaring organ.  Annalisa is arguably the most traditional and commercially appealing track, highlighting the picking skills of this group, and the energetic playfulness shines through.  The group slows it down a tad on Mother Nature, and throws a bit of blues guitar in the gumbo of goodness they serve up on this album.  They close out with Two Bucks and a Beaver Shot, a pure instrumental jam going well over the 15 minute mark with an ample mix of organ, electric banjo and psychedelic guitar funkiness that completes the unique sound the group brings to the table.

Whiskey Tango has been named Denver's best new jam/improv group by Westword magazine, the city's premiere entertainment magazine, and has won praise as being one of the hardest working bands in the city, both mighty feats considering the number of musicians per capita in the Denver area, which makes it difficult to stand out.  But standing is something that you won't see much of at a Whiskey Tango show, and Groggy Mountain Mornings does a fine job at capturing the live energy and magic that has brought smiles to the faces of countless dance-happy jamband and bluegrass fans in the great state of Colorado.