“Whiskey Kisses” Album Review
Album by The Good Time Gals. Released 8/14/22.
Review by Joslyn Danielson. Written 8/11/22.
Sultry is the word that comes to mind over and over while listening to the fresh debut album by The Good Time Gals. This weekend (Aug 14), Miss Myra (guitar/vocals) and Debbie Briggs (vocals) are joined by Beth Varela (cello/percussion), Alissa Jacobsen (fiddle), and Liz Draper (upright bass) to put out a full-length album that is radiating with vintage flair and jazzy nostalgia.
Rooted in blues and hot club swing, these talented artists have come together to create something that is innately retro but always adding little moments of modern songwriting and instrumental tone. The group clearly made their start in the speakeasy scene, conjuring images of a foggy jazz club and a chunky, retro, vocal microphone.
The first quality of their music to stick out to me is their vocal talent. A full and powerful alto is nearly always complimented by her higher counterpart in the harmonies. Taking influence from doo-op and barbershop quartets, the focus is mainly on the vocal harmonies and lyrics, but with quick breaks for hip-shaking fiddle and intricate guitar solos. There are rare moments with only one voice, only to be quickly joined by the other. Scatting and jazzy chords are present in many of their songs, demonstrating mastery of vocal skill and musical theory. They also have strong vocal dynamics, some songs range from powerful belts to a near whisper in the next measure.
The instrumentation is playful, swingy, and complex. Time signature changes, key changes, and jazzy slides are often heard. The cohesive, fast-paced fiddle and guitar give a solid vibe of hot club swing/jazz manouche, which is a style of playing originating with the Romani guitarist, Django Reinhardt, and French violinist, Stephane Grapelli preceding WW2. Some songs, specifically “Fall Fast”, have strong elements of Spanish flamenco, and Latin-American salsa.
However, The Gals include many North-American influences as well, such as blues, country swing, rock and roll, and even some poppy, spoken word lyrics. Both the fiddle and guitar get ample time to show off their chops, throwing the solo back and forth like a musical game of catch. The variety of styles in the guitar playing is especially impressive. She not only seamlessly executes an acoustic flamenco solo, but also rockin’ electric guitar that is simply dripping in the blues.
The themes of the lyrics tend toward melancholy, yet sassy songs about breakups or struggles in love. The title track, “Whiskey Kisses” is a saucy little number, with clever lyrics such as, “I’m fixin’ to be some kind of vixen, whiskey kisses on my mind”, followed by, “I love him like a bad girl should” in the evocative ballad, “Oh No, I Love Him”.
The album is wrapped up with the final two tracks, an upbeat jazz cover of Elle King’s “Ex’s And Oh’s”, and “Can’t Keep This Woman Down”, a blues-rock song about female empowerment, leaving the listener cheering for this all-female powerhouse group.