Words: Jess Graves | Photos: Caroline Fontenot
The band's founding couple throw open the doors of their Atlanta area home for an intimate interview and live session.
It wasn't long before waltzing into Jason and Lauren Morrow's Georgia home that we were offered a whiskey.
And then another whiskey, just a hair past noon. Why not? "I knew I liked you guys." Jason says. The couple are the founding members of The Whiskey Gentry (named for a line in Hunter S. Thompson's "Decadent and Depraved"), an Atlanta-based country/folk band enjoying a steady ascension on their own terms."We don't need to be rock stars." Jason says. "We're happy sustaining ourselves as musicians, just playing music, hopefully selling out shows, and producing great records."
Their home, a happy collection of tour memorabilia, family heirlooms and the stray thrift store victory, is inhabited by two more members of the TWG family; their golden retrievers Jack and Toby. Toby is sage, strong and steady - he keeps the boundless, bouncing Jack in check as he darts from person to person. But Jack always has one eye on Toby, watching him for direction, silently making sure what he's doing is right. The dog's dynamic isn't unlike that of their human parents. Lauren is still and sweet, but quietly possessive of the formidable, sensible strength that so many Southern women are born with. She's the perfect foil to her animated husband, who busies himself fiddling on the guitar, wrestling with Jack and skateboarding on their back yard ramp, which yes, he built himself. He cracks, "My fifteen year old self would be very proud of my house."
"We met at trivia night at [Atlanta bar] The Local." Lauren laughs at the memory. "We won. I remember one of the questions was, 'What 90's band covered Simon and Garfunkel's Mrs. Robinson? And I knew it was The Lemonheads. Jason was surprised I knew that. He kind of raised his eyebrow at me like 'hey girl, what do you know about The Lemonheads?' We spent the whole night dancing, then made out in the bathroom." She laughs again. "Real classy."
"We were in separate bands then." Jason says. "I kept telling her that we should start [a band] together, but she wasn't having it at first. Then we went to see Old Crow Medicine Show play in Chattanooga, and that kind of changed things. We looked at each other and thought, 'we can do this', so we formed The Whiskey Gentry pretty soon after. Six months later, we were opening for Old Crow at [Papa Joe's festival] Banjobque."
“It was a face I’d seen a thousand times at every Derby I’d ever been to. I saw it, in my head, as the mask of the whiskey gentry–a pretentious mix of booze, failed dreams and a terminal identity crisis…” – Hunter S. Thompson
As we wander through their house, Lauren points out a needlepoint tapestry framed in the kitchen. "This was actually the cover for our most recent album, 'Holly Grove'." I squint at it. Sure enough, I recognize the little house in the woods that serves as the focal point for the cover. "That reminds me," I laugh, thinking of the album's title track, "what the hell possessed you to write a song about two little boys who die in the woods?"
She smiles slyly and gives me a little shrug. "I was listening to a lot of 'This American Life' on NPR." "Morbid." I interrupt, laughing again."Yeah, a lot of the time, yeah!" She says. "There was this story on there called 'The Ghost of Bobby Dunbar', about a little boy who goes missing in a swamp in Louisiana. He's found months later with this creepy, wandering handyman in Mississippi. That got me rolling on the lyrics."