Listen: North Texas Collective Chapter 11 has a Beautiful Hit with "Whiskey and You"
When speaking of North Texas country music collective Chapter 11, we're not using the term "collective" lightly. The project, dreamed-up by Sherman-based producer and engineer Dustin Hendricks, who's worked with such greats as Kris Kristofferson, Merle Haggard and even metal giants Hellyeah, isn't a traditional band by any means. It's a genuinely collaborative musical project by several talented folks that simply wanted to finally work together. In fact, Hendricks admits that a short-coming of his own led to the project's beginning.
"I've written several songs in the past," says Hendricks on his way back from a radio-promotion visit in Corpus Christi. "I never put much more into them due to the fact that my voice sounds like nails on a chalk board."
After writing some tunes based on his own past experiences with family - his Mother and Grandmother, to be specific -- Hendricks wanted to start putting voices and music to tape in 2012, so he looked up Sean Franks, a local singer he knew. Even with bringing in a vocalist, Hendricks had little aspiration beyond creating something for his friends and family to enjoy. But once he started to talk about it with area friends and musicians, enlisting more help than he could've wished for, the undertaking morphed into something bigger that deserved more attention than a few MP3s hidden away on his own hard-drive would elicit.
"This was only supposed to be a little acoustic project, but I soon found myself in the studio laying down drums and bass," Hendricks says. "I got my long-time friend Brian Dodson to play my rhythm guitar parts and assist me on the production side. I had recently become friends with an amazing guitar player named Mark Lafon and an equally talented piano player, named Kyle Wade Smith. They graciously agreed to share their talent on my record. At that point, we had our band!"
Chapter 11's songs are sturdy, enjoyable country tunes with an electric-rock edge prominently featured on most of them. The album resulting from this gathering of the vibes, called The Awakening, will be available in a couple of weeks. But the rustic, acoustic tune that's starting to make its way up the regional radio charts is the song that will make people look deeper into the group once they've recovered from the wallop that "Whiskey and You" packs.
It starts with simple acoustic picking and Franks' weary voice singing "There's a bottle." Sure, that might begin to describe any number of country tunes, but in this case, this track burrows a much deeper, heartbreaking hole than your average Top 40-fare does. "Whiskey and You" is absolutely everything a killer country tear-jerker should be. Over the course of almost four minutes, the self-inflected pain of a man and a woman are laid bare in a beautifully sparse, authentic fashion. Listen to it without your guts being ripped apart, and you likely aren't in possession of a pulse.
The song, written by Nashville stud Chris Stapelton, would be one of the best country songs released by a Texas-base artist this year with a solo-performance from Franks, but an added element - a combination that's not present on previous versions of the song recorded by Tim McGraw and former Music Row "It-Girl" Julie Roberts -- takes this song to a painful, remarkably high-level that we just don't hear enough these days. It's the kind of song that makes you stop scanning the radio, even though you may not know who's voice your hearing.
Garland-born, Greenville-residing Aubrey Lynn England has been one of the great country voices of the Metroplex for years. England, who's expecting her second child soon, takes a turn in the song, and showcases a destructively somber female perspective that's rare in today's country realm. When she sings "I drink because I'm lonesome, I'm lonesome because I drink," she's convincingly recognizing the self-inflicted pain with blunt honesty, just as Franks does earlier in the song when he admits that the brown-stuff is both his sin and salvation. But the addition of a female perspective is invaluable in how it represents real relationships in their worst and most broken of times. It also doesn't hurt that England's voice is seemingly made from country sunbeams and sawdust.
As has been the case with much of Chapter 11's endeavors, things turned-out far different than the group's original vision represented. While in the studio, Dodson had the feeling the song would make for a good, albeit non-traditional, duet. With the addition of England, this is isn't a song about a couple fighting with each other, but of a couple of people who know they've messed things up, but lack the power to do anything about it. To be clear: this isn't your average dude-admitting-he-screwed-up-while-girl-lets-him-have-it duet.
"Dustin [Hendricks] called me up and I fell in love with the work they had done," says England. "I went to the studio to lay down some background vocals, but we ended up placing my vocals on a verse and chorus at the end of the song and it quickly became an intense surprise while listening to the tune."
As the single climbs the Texas charts and makes more people ask "Who's singing that?" Hendricks and crew are happy to just see where this ride takes them.
"This has grown a life of its own and I'm just along for the ride," he says. "I've been able to take some of the best musicians I knew and pull them from their main bands to record an album that would not only get local attention, but hit the top 100 on the Texas charts in only its third week of being released. Anything from now on is just a blessing."