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Music for Modern Cowboys


 

Ice House Road has been playing music in the living room of lead singer and rhythm guitar player Bobby Sims since the fall of 2007. It was the spring of 2008 when Bobby, lead guitar player Dewey Hodge, and drummer Adam "J.R." Stoffel played their first gig on a flatbed trailer at a BLM Bull Ride in Gordonsville Virginia. Bobby’s friend Wes Bagoon of BLM Bull Co. hired IHR for actual money, making them, for the first time in their lives, professional musicians.

The songs of Cross Canadian Ragweed, Reckless Kelly, Johnny Cash, and Willie Nelson influenced IHR heavily in the early days. Guitar and bass player Charles Wyant also played with IHR in those first jam sessions, but bowed out to spend more time with his race car. Roger Jones joined the band on bass for it’s first club gig at the now defunct Rocktown in Harrisonburg Va. By this time the band was beginning to define its sound as a bit more rock than country, and a bit more country than rock, anchored by Bobby’s strong, heartfelt, genuine vocals and J.R.’s basic but powerful rhythms.

Several bass players came and went: Bobby’s friend Keith Conley, J.R.’s step-son Chester Hensley, and with Roger and Dewey not fully committed to the band the need for new blood and a bass player was huge. J.R.’s coworker Rob Jones came to several practices thinking he’d be playing keyboards (being that he is a keyboardist), but the need for a bass player was bigger than the need for a keyboardist. Rob had played guitar in other bands but lied about also being a bass player. Bobby and J.R. didn’t know better, and Rob was a talented enough musician that he pulled it off. J.R. and Bobby found it in their hearts to forgive Rob for the little white lie, and he’s been IHR’s bass player and sometimes keyboardist ever since.

Enter Gary Hawthorne, also at that time, one of J.R.’s coworkers. Gary came out to see Ice House Road play at (also defunct) Rivals Charlottesville Va. and saw a band with true potential, but in serious need of a lead guitar player. Gary began coming to practices in Bobby’s living room and has been giving the band a harder, edgier sound ever since. He also brought with him some of his own original songs (and favorite covers) that are still regularly featured in Ice House Road set lists.

Only a few months after Gary joined the band, Ice House Road cut its first CD at Virginia Arts Studio in Charlottesville. "Outlaw Band" was recorded in just one weekend, and Gary was thrown into playing songs he’d only heard a few times (or not at all). He came up with his guitar parts on the spot. "Outlaw Band" was used mainly as promotional and is now out of print. The songs on the CD, however, especially "Poker Song" and "Bull Ride Song" continued to evolve and improve as the band began playing regularly at professional bull ride events, including at the Virginia State Fair. Lots of private parties and club gigs all around central Virginia helped the band refine its sound and really gel.

Throughout the band’s time, Bobby continued to work regularly at bull ride/rodeo events as Cowboy Protection. Many times Bobby would finish playing music to open the Bull Ride, then quickly change clothes, put on his make-up, overalls, and cleats and go out and fight bulls. The world of Bull Fighting was good to Bobby as he was named SEBRA Bull Fighter of the Year two years running. Bobby’s success took him across the country teaching the art of Bull Fighting. Bobby always had his guitar with him though, and his experiences on the road inspired several original songs. The effect Bobby’s professional life had on his love life (with then girlfriend Ashley Owens) even inspired one of the sweetest songs on the album, "Queen I Let Go."

The band had been taking a break from regular gigging but when Bobby began playing his new songs for the rest of the guys, a creative fire was lit. Bobby’s new stuff included "Cowboy Code" and "Queen I Let Go" as well as a tear jerker of a song by Bobby’s friend Laramie Collins in Texas, "I’ll Be Home Soon." This was the beginning of the the band’s new era of creativity. Gary took inspiration from something Bobby had told the audience at every IHR club gig it ever played, and wrote a sing-a-long title track: "The More You Drink... The Better We Sound"

The newly energized Ice House Road also gave new life to a couple songs from the first CD. The songs barely resembled their original versions, and even got new names. "Poker Song" became "Livin’ Fast, Dying Young" and is now a hard driving challenge to live life on the edge by taking chances and going "all in." "Bull Riding Song" became "Cowboy’s Paradise" and now more fully captures the rowdy mood and foot stomping essence of a live bull riding event.

The band soon realized it was ready to record again. Thanks to the efforts and connections of Gary the band went into Cat Room Studio in Charlottesville to record with Brian Craddock behind the board. As a skilled engineer, songwriter, and full time Daughtry guitarist, Brian brought a lot of technical and creative expertise to help produce the band in its sophomore recording efforts. Andy Waldeck (Egypt, Earth to Andy) also helped the band record some acoustic "bonus tracks" and even threw in some vocals. These bonus tracks are all live, acoustic, fun, (and a little sloppy) and are a good example of the band’s diversity. Award winning producer Kevin McNoldy of cPhonic leant his masterful ear and state of the art facilities to the project with amazing mixes and mastering for the ultimate sonic goodness.   Ice House Road’s new CD, named after Gary’s song "The More You Drink... The Better We sound" was finally ready for mass production and digital distribution in the fall of 2013.

Ice House Road doesn’t fit neatly into any genre. Certainly it has it’s roots in Outlaw and Alternative Country, has a Zac Brown feel at times, and can be very honky-tonk(ish), but it isn’t afraid to allow influences from outside the country music spectrum. At times the band will conjure an ethereal Pink Floyd sound, feedback through the verse of a country ballad, delve deeply into the Blues or put a U2 riff over a folk song: IHR clearly isn’t afraid to take chances. Bringing cellist Laura Mulligan Thomas of the Charlottesville Symphony to add syrupy sadness to the ballad "I’ll Be Home Soon" was a truly Outlaw move that added impressive depth.

Maybe it does have a genre: "Progressive-Alt-Western-Outlaw-Country-Blues-Rock." Or as noted newspaper columnist Bryan McKenzie described after a night of sonic pummeling: "Acid Country."

Ice House Road is now gigging regularly in support of the new album and continues to be heavily influenced by the world of Bull Riding, and the Modern Cowboy. It’s a theme found in most of the songs on "The More You Drink..." And out of respect and thanks, and the love of playing music at Bull Rides, Ice House Road continues to open the show at summer Bull Riding events in Gordonsville, for Wes Bagoon.