The Magpies bring a new reverent energy to roots music performance. The Ohio four-piece formerly known as Roger Hoover & The Whiskeyhounds are now four albums into a career that has taken them all over the country, preaching a rowdy gospel of sin, redemption, love, and death â€” it's indiefolkrockrevivalism.
Without label or professional representation, the Magpies have released four outstanding collections of unusual musical breadth and lyrical diversity. Roger Hoover's career as a writer has all the hallmarks of a great American epic. He came into his own after the death of his father, leaving the family business to follow his creative calling.Teaming up with friend and touring punk veteran Dave McKean (GC5), he started putting his words to music and his music on the road. Hoover & The Whiskeyhounds put out two albums (Golden Gloves, PanicBlues) that challenged the Americana scene's complacency with clichÃ©. Even then, Hoover's words stepped beyond the forced eccentricity of alot of roots music. Having grown up around storytellers lends Hoover's writing style a particular universalism, even as many of his stories seem to come from some unknown, but very specific, time and place. His settings are a combination of words and music that evokes thought and action with the cinematic imagination of Tom Waits and Gillian Welch.
With the addition of Justin Gorski, who jumped onstage with his accordion one night in Cleveland and wound up being asked to join the band, the band's sound took a more imaginative turn. Gorski's piano, organ, and accordion turned Hoover's reflective words into prophecy, his confessions into testimony. The resultant album, Jukebox Manifesto, was an album of impressive breadth and detailâ€”from political dissent and seductive passion to stark loneliness and funereal realism, Jukebox Manifesto ran the gamut of the roots tradition.
To reflect the more collaborative nature of their music-writing process, Hoover & The Whiskeyhounds changed their name to the Magpies for the release of their fourth album, Eastern Standard Time. This newest collection, like Jukebox, is alive with characters of multi-faceted tragedy. Unlike Jukebox, however, stark and lonely introspection is set aside for Springsteen-sized roots anthems of raucous resignation to the pangs of human folly. It is perhaps the closest the band has come to fully representing its live energy in a recording.
The Magpies' live shows are a spectacle of rare energy, with intimate verse and fist-pumping chorus taking turns across the spectrum of blues, gospel, folk, and rock. Hoover's electric tenor is as captivating as the words he sings â€” he whispers with the same urgency as he screams, while sweating out dirty slide guitar solos plucked right out of the Mississippi River. And Gorski holds his audience in rapt attention, squeezing and shaking out accordion and keyboard melodies with all the charisma of a hexed snakehandler. As writers, The Magpies are twisting Americana's calloused chords into a redemptive hook that at once recalls the first notes of rock-n-roll and resets the boundaries of what we know as roots music.
As entertainers, they present lyrically heavy, searing American rock-n-roll with a contagious fervor that lifts ghosts from the floorboards and hands them a microphone. They are breathing new life into roots music. Wherever they find themselves, it's the most unforgettable show in town.