“Another night in the lonely ol’ hotel room, another payment on my beat up Chevy truck,” so starts the first CD released by The Chiggers. Friday night the band celebrated their effort with a CD release party at Southside Plaza Bowl, a fitting venue for an alternative country group that has you crying in your beer with one song and has you up two steppin’ on the next.
Chester musician Tim Stanton plays peddle steel guitar for the band, though he’s heard on keyboards, dobro and harmony vocals as well. Ten years ago Stanton asked himself, “What makes me happy in life?” and the answer came back – music. So he picked up the guitar that he’d played some 20 years earlier and continued from where he left off.
“I played out in high school and college all the time,” Stanton said. “Then I kind of lost interest. I couldn’t hook up with anybody who was taking it [music] seriously. Then you go to work, you raise a family, you write a column for the Village News, everybody’s got their own story.” And then he got back into it. A band needed a bass player, Stanton said. He didn’t own a bass at the time. So he went out and bought a bass and picked it and began a new musical career.
Wes Edwards, who is slightly younger than Stanton and graduated from Thomas Dale in 1980, fronts The Chiggers. His voice, which mimics the rich baritone of George Jones, is fitting for the roadhouse music of the band, which also emulates music from Dwight Yoakam or Randy Travis.
“We moved to Chester and I lived there until ‘81 - right there in Bruce Farms,” Edwards said last week during a break from playing. “I played the organ as a kid, but I didn’t really get into music much until I was quite a bit older. I probably began playing [guitar and singing] for real when I was about 40.” He said he played covers like Jimmy Buffet, James Taylor and the Eagles; things you could do with a guitar and a voice and get a gig.
Edwards also wrote nine of the 10 songs on The Chigger’s first CD. Songs like “Another You,” “Made in the Shade,” and “If I Didn’t Have You,” are stories told with a twang. “Sad, Sad Music” has you drowning in your tears, and “Roller Derby Girl” has a Johnny Cash rhythm that hears a train a comin’.
“George Jones, Buck Owens and Lefty Frissell are influences for the new album,” Edwards said. “That whole honky-tonk sound.” And what’s honky-tonk without a steel guitar?
Stanton eventual got into playing steel guitar, which was his first love, but he found it too difficult to play. “If a guitar is math, a steel guitar is algebra,” Stanton said. Petals and levers, which change the tone, are difficult to deal with.
“When I turned 49, I said, what is my big regret in life?” Stanton remembered. He found a teacher named Buddy Charleton, who had played with Ernest Tubb for 12 years, and is a member of the “Steel Guitar Hall of Fame,” and took lessons from him for four years. Then he started sitting in with bands and making the mistakes newer musicians make and ended with The Chiggers.
The Chiggers started playing together in late 2008. “Various members had played in different bands,” Stanton said. “For instance Chip [Farnsworth], the drummer, had played in the Cy Taggart Band; Chip and Paul [Lipscomb, bass guitar] had played together, so when Wes wanted to get together to do some of this country – and we’re all in a sort of Richmond music scene – we got together.”
“Everybody had played in rock bands, and the interesting thing is that when alt [alternative] country bands started, bands like Drive by Truckers, that sort of stuff, a lot of rockers were ready to give up the beat but still liked the sort of outlaw-like part of rock ‘ roll, and alt rocker picked that up.” They are the next wave after Willie Nelson, he said.
“We draw sort of an older crowd, but there’s also a younger crowd. Country and punk have kind of the same attitude and that counterculture feel.”
“The good thing about The Chiggers is that we do everything from 60s country, Buck Owens, 70s, John Conelly, John Anderson and then we’ll do the newer Drive by Truckers stuff and then we even throw in some Allman Brothers and Eagles for the tweeners,” he said.
Another member of The Chiggers is Ray Fralin on lead guitar, who adds some action on stage. The Chiggers will be playing in Chester on Friday evening July 1 on the Village Green, just opposite the Chester Library, from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. as part of Family Fridays sponsored by the Chester Community Association.