Ben Barwick and the founding members of Tonk, a country
honkytonk-centric experiment turned full-blown traveling showcase, were listening to Ray Price and
other Western greats when an idea dawned on them.
They should make a Ray Price cover band, one of the friends suggested.
“We were all kind of laughing at the idea, and then someone said, ‘No, I’m being serious,’” Barwick said.
While Barwick and fellow musicians Bo Taylor, Shepherd Lane and Lin Peterson all considered themselves capable musicians, they were kidding themselves if they thought they could seamlessly transition to country music.
But then again, how hard could it be?
As it turns out, the band found it the most technically difficult genre it had ever tried to replicate, let alone create.
At first, the country novices were able to cover up some of their more minor mistakes while on stage, but the recording process proved to be an entirely different animal.
Soon they had a few songs under their belt, and this Raleigh-based experiment in the heart of Nashville looked as if it could be something so much more when the opportunity came about to record an album.
“It (country) has to have a groove to it, and if you are off, you look really stupid and can’t hide it,” Barwick said. “We did an OK job of hiding it starting out, but when you start to record, it’s like being examined under a microscope.”
The band took a turning point when it recruited Jay Brown to lead on guitar and vocals. Before long, the band started to really gel.
The addition of Greg Readling on piano was a welcome contrast to the group’s guitar play, Barwick said, adding that Readling’s prowess on the piano was “still in rhythm” with the group’s primary sound, but in a “pretty trippy, amazing way.”
“He can also do some incredible leads and fills,” Barwick said. “He’s a wizard on the piano.”
Tonk brings its blooming style of country music — and new tracks from its debut studio album, “Let’s Keep It Dark” — to Boone Saloon on Thursday, Nov. 7.
“A Tonk show is really fun,” Barwick said. “It’s a very tangible groove, and lately, more and more people have been dancing at our shows.”
Each song the group performs is a little different than the last.
“Each song has its own story,” Barwick said. “It’s pretty engaging on a bunch of different levels … at least to us.”
Boone Saloon shows typically start after 10 p.m., and only those 21 and older will be admitted. Cover costs $5.
For more information on Tonk, visit http://www.tonknc.com or search for the band on Facebook.