The Hippo


Jun 27, 2019








Chamomile & Whiskey. Courtesy photo.

 Chamomile and Whiskey

When:  Thursday, Jan. 23, at 8 p.m.
Where: The Press Room, 77 Daniel St., Portsmouth

Traveling band
Chamomile & Whiskey continue the journey

By Michael Witthaus

Bluegrass chops and punk ethos inform the raucous sound of Chamomile and Whiskey, appearing Thursday, Jan. 23, at Portsmouth’s Press Room. The five-piece acoustic band has generated a lot of buzz since forming two years ago in Charlottesville, Va., mainly on the strength of high-energy live shows. They’re considered one of the hottest up and coming bands in a town teeming with great music.
2013’s Wandering Boots, the group’s first full-length album, also ably displays their studio talents. There’s the rock and reel “Dirty Sea” — penned by banjo player and Galway, Ireland, native Ryan Lavin, it owes equal debts to the Pogues and Steve Earle. Fittingly, the title song is a runaway train, one of six selections written by guitarist and vocalist Koda Kerl.  
With elements of gypsy folk, mountain twang and high lonesome country, this brew of heady Americana is as eclectic as the scene that spawned them. 
“The city is packed with music, and it seems like everyone you talk to is in a band,” Kerl said in a recent phone interview. He cites local heroes the Hackensaw Boys as a key influence — “one of the first bands playing old-time music with kind of a punk rock attitude, really rowdy shows” — and mentions Dave Matthews, who helped put Charlottesville on the map in the early 1990s. 
Chamomile and Whiskey was born on the road. Kerl had been playing in a rock band and doing a side project with fiddle player Marie Borgman, also his girlfriend. They performed as a duo on a tour through Canada and the Pacific Northwest a couple of years ago but came away feeling like they needed more. 
“We liked the style we were doing, but we wanted a much bigger sound,” Kerl said. 
He grew up in a musical family; his father was a songwriter who introduced him to John Prine, Townes Van Zandt and Bob Dylan. But Kerl was also a big fan of The Band, and anxious to flesh things out. 
“Get some drums involved and more … we enjoy playing the type of shows where people are dancing.”   
Rounded out by drummer Brenning Greenfield and upright bass player Tim Deibler, the band came together quickly. Soon they were signed to a local label and making an EP. 
“We did it with a local producer, recorded it live in an old barn,” said Kerl. “That was a pretty cool experience.”
Two years on, they’ve played hundreds of shows all over the country. In addition to their first ever New Hampshire show, the current tour takes them to D.C., New York City, Vermont, Maine and Philadelphia, Kerl’s hometown. They’re winning fans far and wide, as evidenced by a pair of shows at a Vermont ski resort a while back. 
“By the time we were done with our afternoon show, the venue was asking to pay a little more so we could play another set that night,” said Kerl. “It clicked so well. The crowd was awesome, and we were blown away by how well we were received.”
The steady stream of dates marks a turning point. 
“Last year, we would do one weekend here and there,” said Kerl. “This is a new phase for us where no one is working a day job anymore and we are hitting the road full time.”  
Speaking to a reporter in his hometown last spring, banjo player Lavin echoed Kerl. 
“I didn’t have a proper show until I moved to America and had one with these lads,” he said. “Entertaining people, first and foremost, is our goal. And this is what I’m doing for the rest of my life. I have no plan B.”  
As seen in the January 23, 2014 issue of the Hippo.

®2019 Hippo Press. site by wedu