Moonshine Willy – Are you sure Billy Corgan done it this way?
If you want to find Kim Docter and Mike Luke’s Wicker Park residence on the near north side of Chicago, do what I did. Look for the Winnebago parked out front and find the apartment with their bloodhound Baloo, standing guard at the gate. “The Winnebago will probably open up a whole new area of songwriting for us,” laughs Luke, the 6’2″, tattooed, standup bassist/singer for Moonshine Willy. Docter, lead vocalist, rhythm guitarist and business liaison for the group, has recently finished writing the songs for their upcoming second album and is presently more preoccupied with trying to expand their tour circuit. “If we’ve already played somewhere, they usually want us back. When I’m calling somewhere new, I have to send out a CD and press kit; that’s why I’m dreading booking the next frontier.”
Kim and Mike are an engaging couple in the country music tradition that has slowly mutated from Johnny Cash and June Carter to X’s John Doe and Exene Cervenka. In addition to Luke and Docter, Moonshine Willy’s lineup includes Nancy Rideout on a hell-raising lead guitar, banjo and mandolin, classically trained Racheal Ferro on the fiddle, and Chris Ganey, the first drummer for the band not to spontaneously combust. (Yet.)
In two short years, Moonshine Willy has established a loyal following from Chicago to California. They tour consistently, sharing gigs with a number of like-minded groups. “We actually played quite a bit with Southern Culture On The Skids; we always have a great time and it’s really a good match,” says Docter. The band is featured on the Bloodshot Records compilations (For A Life Of Sin: Insurgent Country Volume I) and Hell-Bent: Insurgent Country (Volume II). They have also released their own Bloodshot CD, Pecadores (that means sinners, folks). co-produced by David Lowrey and John Moreland with Luke.
Performing live, the country-bluegrass-punkabilly outfit balances Docter’s compositions with old-time classics. For every version of the Louvin Brothers’ “Atomic Power” or the Carter/Cash duet “Jackson,” there’s two or three Moonshine originals. Docter sings and plays with confidence as Luke and the band swing behind her at a breakneck pace. Rideout’s unorthodox solos splatter all over the place, while Ferro’s counterpoint fiddle is engagingly precise.
“We’re starting to ease out of the traditional sounds that we play, and I think that has an effect on the new material,” Luke says. Docter picks up where Luke trails off: “It’s a natural growth; none of us ever think about marketability or potential airplay when we’re writing or arranging.” Luke chimes in again: “Not that we wouldn’t like that, but not during the creative process.” Their next single will be one of Kim’s new songs, with an XTC cover for the flip side. They plan to release another full-length disc this fall. In the meantime, keep your eye out for that Winnebago.