WhiskeyHickon Boys: A Unique Sound for a Unique Town, Skippack
The WhiskeyHickon Boys frequently perform in Skippack and enjoys a strong following in the area. You can catch WhiskeyHickon Boys in Skippack at Hotel Fiesole, the Cabana Bar, Justin’s Carriage House, or the Dutch Country Inn.
The WhiskeyHickon Boys radiate creative musical energy. Listening to the WhiskeyHickon Boys makes me realize how lucky I am to enjoy the music scene in Skippack, how fortunate to be a member of the audience in a town which is helping foster the success of such a special sound.
Where’s the Lead Guitar Player?
To appreciate the WhiskeyHickon Boys, begin with the player who is absent. There is no lead guitar player.
The lead guitar player has been a ubiquitous member of nearly every folk, pop, rock and roll, and singer-songwriter act since the music industry first discovered the youth market back in the day, when teenagers in bobby socks began buying 45 rpm records.
The absent lead guitar player clues me in: This band has something new to offer.
The Time of the Ukulele has Come
Thanks to the WhiskeyHickon Boys, a less commonplace musical instrument gets the opportunity to bask in the spotlight. The time of the ukulele has come. The ukulele gets strummed by the center man in this trio, Jonathan Denny, called Denny by his friends and fans.
Denny also sings lead, and plays harmonica and kazoo. I enjoyed meeting and talking to him. He is a creative guy and 100% musician. He told me he learns a new song every few days.
Harmony and rhythm are maintained by Noah Hudson, who plays an acoustic fretless bass or a standing upright bass. The WhiskeyHickon beat gets a boost from Michael Young, who plays percussion — cajon (box-shaped wood instrument, originally from Peru), djembe (goblet-shaped hand drum), and foot pedal.
Elements Combine and Music is Made
Jonathan Denny developed his vocal and performance style while traveling across country and playing street music, including an extended stint in New Orleans. Listening to other street musicians, he learned how to create big sound from limited resources.
Noah Hudson’s strong rhythms and his calmer physical presence are the perfect anchor to balance Denny’s free-spirited approach to music and life. Michael Young is a 10-year Skippack resident who, in addition to playing percussion, brings real-world focus and skills necessary to creative survival: He manages and markets the band.
The music is a mix of bluegrass, rock, funk, jazz, blues, hip hop, other stuff, and a bit more than these elements combined. These three young men are creating a precious musical and artistic commodity: Their own sound and style.
Summertime to No Diggity: A WhiskeyHickon Sampler
The WhiskeyHickon Boys play familiar tunes with a twist so distinctive that it becomes a kind of musical trademark. The line that separates the commonplace from the creative gets blurred and then ceases to exist. Their mix of genres makes my head spin; it guarantees everyone in the audience will find something to love.
I purchased their first CD at a performance at DaVinci’s Tavern in Collegeville (a new, second CD is now available). Among other tunes, it includes:
- One of the Skippack Blogger’s favorite jazz standards, Summertime, composed by the Gershwin Brothers and DuBose Heyward in the 1930s for the musical Porgy and Bess (I love jazz standards)
- A disco hit from the 70s Stayin Alive originally played by the Bee Gees (the Skippack Blogger’s wife loves disco)
- No Diggity, a sensual R&B/rap hit from the 90s.
Each song is delivered in a unique WhiskeyHickon style:
- Summertime is done with strong blues feeling. Jonathan Denny’s powerful voice takes command, and the perfect emotion comes across. A classic American song in a classic style.
- Stayin Alive starts with Noah Hudson’s bass and seems at first a bit tongue-in-cheek but ends gritty and real. The band demonstrates the rhythmic power of simple folk instruments.
- The same musical grit carries the WhiskeyHickon Boys through their folk-hop rendition of No Diggity.
Versatility proven. I imagine people from different generations, the old and young, in a Skippack bar, all going home pleased with the music. Music, after all, should bring people together.
“About 70% of our songs are covers that we put our spin on,” explains percussionist Michael Young, who treated me to a pizza and beer at the Cabana Bar a while back on a beautiful spring day. The band plays original tunes as well, and won an Montgomery Bucks (Mo/Bucks) Music award for best original composition for their song Pick Up Truck.
An Acoustic Heart and a Soul that Pushes the Limits
The WhiskeyHickon Boys call their music “Gangsta Folk,” an urban-bluegrass oxymoron. To me, they are serious musicians who play music with an acoustic heart but who refuse to be confined by the limits of traditional folk or singer/songwriter stereotypes and insist upon having fun. The mix of musicianship and fun is what delivers joy to the listener’s ear. This joy is delivered in Skippack and, as their reputation grows, in a growing number of venues in Pennsylvania, including the Philadelphia Folk Festival and Bethlehem MusiKFest, and across the United States.
“Skippack is a town that is good to musicians,” says Michael Young. “The people here appreciate our music and reciprocate by treating us well.”
These words music to the ears of the Skippack Blogger.