Early on a Tuesday night, dressed like they just stepped off a plane from Marlboro Country, Adam Lee and Johnny Kenepaske, of Adam Lee and the Dead Horse Sound Company, stride into Chez Charlie's in midtown to discuss their second full-length release, When the Spirits Move Me. It's a honky-tonk-heavy album that celebrates whiskey, women and the beauty of lap steel.
The Pitch: Are all the songs about drinking?
Adam Lee: There's a lot. A lot. I would say at least half of them.
Johnny Kenepaske: More than half.
Lee: That wasn't intentional.
Kenepaske: We were just singin' about what we know.
Do you live the life you sing about?
Kenepaske: We've never shot any police officers.
Lee: For the most part, most of them are moderately autobiographical. There are a lot of barroom tunes and stuff. We do live in midtown, know what I mean?
When you wrote these songs, did you picture yourself performing them somewhere in particular?
Kenepaske: Maybe some place that has free drinks?
Lee: They are definitely juke-joint, roadhouse tunes. Or at least, that was what I was hoping for. We play a lot of dirty barrooms.
B-A-R-room or B-A-L-L-room?
Lee: Bar. I would love to play a dirty ballroom, though.
How do you feel the songwriting has evolved since the last album?
Lee: It's a lot more straight country, stylistically.
Kenepaske: On the first album, Ghostly Fires, we were still dabbling in the style. It was more like, here's a collection of songs. Let's put them on a disc. No filter. On this album, we went straight-out country. We demoed 20 to 30 songs and then narrowed it down to what we thought would work best to make it sound like a classic country record.
Do your lyrics match the tunes?
Lee: I think for most of the honky-tonk tunes they do. I consciously strived to do that. There's a level of depth to classic country music, but it's not super-deep. There's a universal quality to it, but I would say that it's deceptively simple. There's a real thin edge to get it to be simple but still have it be engaging.
The new CD drops on Saturday at Davey's Uptown, right?
Lee: Yes, and our buddies, the Blue Boot Heelers, are also doing a CD release at the same show. Johnny [Kenepaske] records their material.
Kenepaske: They are a little more outlaw-country.
Lee: It's gonna be a two-steppin' night, that's for sure.