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Music Review: The Bohannons – Unaka Rising

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Southern rock music is undergoing an interesting revolution these days. It’s adding some punk attitude and a bit of grunge sound to the rock, blues, and country it has always had. The Bohannons, from Chattanooga, Tennessee, are a perfect example of what’s great about this new roots rock sound on their new release, Unaka Rising.

This is not music that invites you to listen passively. This is music that attacks and forces you to engage from the very first notes of “Goodbye Bill” to the last strains of “Ponchartrain.” 

The lyrics delve into the rich mines of Southern mythology and are filled with the imagery of their native region. The title of the CD refers, in fact, to the Unaka region of Tennessee. But in The Bohannon’s music, that mythology and imagery is mixed with anger, paranoia, and political unease.

The sound here is anything but predictable. Yes, there are blues licks and high, lonesome, twangy sounds like the best of bluegrass, but there is also violently raucous guitar, emotionally charged vocals,more than a touch of metal, and above all else, rock and roll.

Stylistically, The Bohannons are often compared to Crazy Horse and Drive-By Truckers. But I hear strong similarities to The White Stripes and Drivin’ N Cryin’ as well.

Every song here is strong and it is hard to pick favorites. My favorite is probably “The River Above.” But “Goodbye Bill,” “The Ballad of Christian and Other,” “Cold Dead Hand,” and “Ponchartrain” are also standouts. Other listeners may well choose other favorites, and, indeed, upon further listening each song may well take its turn being my favorite.

Some people may hate this CD. The Bohannons do not make mainstream music, and they make a point of challenging the listener. Others are going to love it. Either way, no one is going to be left undecided. Personally, I love it and am already craving more.

If you like homegrown rock that defies the norm and demands a response, you owe it to yourself to give The Bohannons a listen. You just may find out that it’s exactly what you’ve been looking for.

About Rhetta Akamatsu

I am an author of non-fiction books and an online journalist. My books include Haunted Marietta, The Irish Slaves, T'ain't Nobody's Business If I Do: Blues Women Past and Present, and Sex Sells: Women in Photography and Film.