Brian Whelan is done fretting over what people call his music — roots-rock, Americana, power-pop, alt-country, a-hyphenate-to-be-named-later. Not that he ever did very much anyway. “It’s all rock ’n’ roll,” he says. “Sometimes it’s dressed up in a different costume, but it will be there long after we’re gone.”
Those who’ve followed Whelan through his exploits in bands big and small have anticipated the March 25 release of “Sugarland” for years. Whelan worked most recently as a sideman for Dwight Yoakam, and before that played with Eugene Edwards, Scot Bruce, the Broken West, Apex Manor, Randy Weeks, Mike Stinson, Tony Gilkyson, KISS, Chuck Berry and Jim Lauderdale. In 2012, his solo album “Decider” earned raves, but it’s taken three years, a lot of work with co-producer Mitch Marine (Yoakam’s drummer) and some patience for the follow-up to be realized.
“Sugarland” is sturdy music made from rock’s finest fabrics, an amalgam of pop, punk and country that often sounds like the Replacements doing Americana. Whelan’s crisp vocals and guitar chops prevail, and the record features Marine on drums and Lee Pardini contributing bass, keyboards and vocals. Two of “Sugarland’s” tracks were written by Whelan’s former bandmate in Apex Manor and the Broken West, Ross Flournoy. “Sucker Punch” was co-written with Phoebe Bridgers, and “Talk to Me” with the Neighborhood Bullys.
The first single, “Go Dancing,” finds Whelan and Flournoy co-writing a humorous riff of the frontman’s lack of moves. “My girlfriend loves to dance, and I just hate it,” Whelan says with a laugh. “I’ve now learned a little two-step, but the song is basically about me trying to make peace with that part of our relationship.”
||| Stream: “Go Dancing”
||| Previously: “Decider”
||| Live: Brian Whelan will celebrate his album release on April 3 with a performance at Grand Ole Echo at the Echo.