Like a wandering mysterious traveler, Jonathan Warren & The Billy Goats don’t quite belong in country, or folk, nor alternative, yet they spend their days smoothly passing through each, leaving an identifiable and memorable fusion of all. Raggedly soothing duel vocals, violin, banjo, mandolin, upright bass and heavy dose of swagger make up the Progressive PsychoBilly Folk Grass that is the Boise band.
With a plethora of live shows under their belt, including Idaho Down and Sawtooth Music festival, Jonathan Warren & The Billy Goats have established a sound that resonates well from stage to album. I caught them live in Boise at the Neurolux and having never heard of them before this show, I was clawing for more. Their presence on stage was simply infectious. It takes all of two seconds to see the passion in their music as they don’t just simply play; they become one with their songs. Though they played to a modest crowd, the energy was definitely impressive.
A Little Something Stronger Than Wine is best taken in two doses, the A side and B side. The first six tracks kick off heavily with “Walk Around You.” A gentle strum opens the door to a strutting track that is easy to become engulfed in. Jonathan Warren’s rough/raspy vocals sing with purpose and a whisky-like worn finesse. Backed by David Sather-Smith, Jonathan Warren & The Billy Goats craft an authentic sound other Folk, Bluegrass, even Country, would be hard pressed to find. The purity of their genuine sound is exemplified by the contributions from Austin Clark, Andrew Smith and Ty Clayton, whose instrumental contributions mold the identifiable style and sound of these Treasure Valley visionaries. Ambitiously moving forward, songs like “Sara Jean,” with the smooth violin breakdown, the rambling “Don Quixote” and “Who Really Knows” it is really easy to settle right in to the album.
Launching into the raw purity that shall be referred to as the “B side,” A Little Something Stronger Than Wine proves it’s title. “Brown Liquor” is an addicting track that will leave your body swaying in time with the banjo. By the time we reach “No Dame,” the track which sings to the album title, it is as if you’re gathered around a camp partaking in the intimate honkytonk bliss of Jonathan Warren & The Billy Goats. The latter half of the thirteen tracks changes tempo and lingers on the essence of Folk with heart.
Jonathan Warren & The Billy Goats embodies the purity of Folk/Bluegrass. They sing with sincere emotion, drift on simple instrumentals that peak on waves of energetic breakdowns and most importantly, they live within an unrefined foot-stomping elegance that brings you back again and again. Progressive PsychoBilly Folk Grass is the genre you didn’t know you’d like and A Little Something Stronger Than Wine is the album that will open the door.