“Chooch” Meisenbacher, sitting across the table drinking whiskey on the rocks in the afternoon, looks like a prototypical merrymaking country boy with full beard, long curly hair, and unbuttoned flannel shirt layering a local band tee.
A decade ago, Meisenbacher was a clean-cut football coach and history teacher at the private Christian school Union Christian Academy in Fort Smith. After quitting that job, and a breakup with his fiancee, Meisenbacher “took a 180,” he said, and started playing music, covering classic rock radio hits as “Chooch and the SideHill Gougers.”
Now, Meisenbacher’s new band, Cutty Rye, is releasing its debut bluegrass album “Half Pack of Chesterfields,” 10 songs written by Meisenbacher and his mates that weave bluegrass, with rock and beyond. Cutty Rye is made up of Payton Easley (electric guitar, vocals), Adams Collins (banjo, vocals), Miles Bolin (bass) and Meisenbacher (acoustic guitar, lead vocals).
“Unfortunately, about half the songs are about her [former girlfriend],” Meisenbacher said. “The other half are about drinking, cocaine and other stuff.”
“Waka Song” begins the album with a jam-styled brew that harkens Meisenbacher’s inspiration for pursuing bluegrass music from local music festivals while the next track, “Tangaloo” is the most grounded, straight-forward bluegrass take on the album and benefits greatly likewise.
“Free” is a celebratory breakup song that attempts to hurdle from the coffeehouse to the bar without hitting its knee, while “Country Song” swings to amiss by overstepping itself with put-on bravado, dubbed-in wolf cries and maniacal laughter.
“Like My Daddy Did” pleasantly reclaims the album with some of its nicest instrumentation and peaceful transcending melody despite its clichéd tag and honest subject matter.
“I’d Kill Myself” explicates the album’s motif of Meisenbacher’s lyrical compulsion toward pitying heartbreak against effervescent melody making at its most heterogeneous. Lyrically, the song is a soliloquy whining the attention seeking of an attached man yet remains undoubtedly satisfying with an inherent catchiness and awkward singability that shines darkly comical. “Aleze” follows in the same vain with desperate choruses singing to a fun, shit-kicking banjo roll but, unlike “I’d Kill Myself,” buoys above ever becoming uncomfortable after a few listens.
“Pour the Wine” is Meisenbacher’s most veiled songwriting attempt and stands out as one of the better songs of the album perhaps for that reason. “Ballad of Scooter Bernard” ends the album with a tune about cocaine that is similar to Mountain Sprout’s partygrass.
Overall, “Half Pack of Winchesters” is a fun listen and a solid foundation for Cutty Rye as a respected regional bluegrass favorite. It is quirky, weird, and sometimes a little bit pathetic. It is also genuine, sometimes polished, and plainly enjoyable.
Cutty Rye’s CD release party for “Half Pack of Winchesters” is March 24 at Greenhouse Grille on South School Avenue in Fayetteville. To learn more about Cutty Rye, you can visit their website at cuttyrye.wordpress.com.