Pity the poor record store worker (and yes, there are some left) who has to try and classify the Whiskey Gentry's new album, "Holly Grove." The band has a definite rock attitude, but it also features fiddles and banjos, making it bluegrass - except the drums put it in the country genre. Then again, those drums occasionally lean closer toward punk than country, and there's a Celtic feel to more than a couple of songs. In other words, it's an Americana album and a very good one at that.
The Georgia band is fronted by the husband-and-wife team of vocalist Lauren Staley and guitarist Jason Morrow, but "Holly Grove" is very much a team effort. Chelsey Lowe on banjo, Rurik Nunan on fiddle and Michael Smith on mandolin keep the band grounded in country/bluegrass, from the honky-tonk of I Ain't Nothing to the sweet Particles.
The rhythm section of drummer Price Cannon and bassist Sam Griffin propel the band through the hard-driving songs, turning Colly Davis and the instrumental Brander's Reel into punk-grass hybrids.
The title track is an easy highlight, a contemporary take on the traditional murder ballad - with a military drumbeat and horns. Oh Me sticks closer to traditional bluegrass, while Dixie is as close to mainstream country as the band is likely to get. Staley, an engaging singer with vocals that fall somewhere between Iris Dement and Alison Krauss, more than keeps up with the band as it hops from one genre to the next.
Despite the fact that the songs cover murder, drugs, drinking, revenge and more, "Holly Grove" is a fun, entertaining record. Since The Whiskey Gentry can't easily be pigeonholed into one genre, that's probably the only classification that really matters.