Cory Chisel stands out amongst a very select few in contemporary Country music as a truly authentic and sincere musician and song-writer.
Dressed all in black with skinny jeans, a leather jacket and a matching hat, Cory Chisel looked like a modern Johnny Cash as he was gently picking at his acoustic guitar, waiting to begin his sound check. The manner in which he spoke about the music he plays and his fellow musicians showed that despite his origins in Minnesota and Wisconsin, Chisel spiritually comes from the musical world of the southern American states.
As the frontman of the Wandering Sons, Chisel released ‘Old Believes’ in June 2012 but arrived at St. Bonaventure’s Parish Social Club in Bristol with just his guitar and Wife, and would go on to mesmerise this intimate venue with tales of love and murder.
Chisel was supported by Dan Hamilton; a young musician from Somerset who brought a strong following with him to Bristol. On tracks like ‘Help me make it through’, Hamilton combined a sensitive guitar picking style with emotionally driven lyrics. His versatility as a song-writer was also evident with the more upbeat nature of ‘Chasing the Sunset’ in which he showed off his powerful, high vocals. Hamilton’s song-writing showed signs of real substance and great potential.
Immediately after taking the stage, Chisel began to entertain his audience, jokingly declaring his new role as the official American spokesperson for Bath Ale. His interaction with the audience was superb throughout the performance, creating a relaxed and enjoyable environment for listening to his superb music.
Chisel’s voice possesses a great amount of warmth with a real weightiness that clearly transcends his age. It is extremely soulful; containing incredible emotion which was especially present in his cover of Sam Cooke’s ‘A Change is Gonna Come’. His love for Country music also shone throughout his set, firstly singing a murder ballad and then paying tribute to the Father of Country-Rock, Gram Parsons, with a beautiful rendition of ‘Hickory Wind’. Chisel voiced a belief shared by many traditional Country music fans today; that songs by the likes of Gram Parsons and Townes van Zandt, who were not commercially successful in their lifetimes, are the ones which drove the genre forward and must be exalted and preserved in performances like these.
Chisel’s wife, Adriel Denae, provided her husband’s music with warm and inviting harmonies, reminding me of the stunning duets between Gram Parsons and Emmylou Harris in the early 1970s and adding an extra layer of succulence to Chisel’s performance. The song-writer also showed that he is a man of strong morality, following in the footsteps of his heroes Johnny Cash and Bob Dylan with the protest song ‘Times Won’t Change’. Chisel also explained his appreciation for the Native American culture before performing his new song: ‘The Savage Kind’. Growing up next to an Indian reservation, Chisel was fascinated with the spirituality of the tribe. He now has a lifelong passion to learn about different tribes and explained his sadness at the way the Native American culture was pushed out of the Country. It would be no surprise if Chisel’s fascination with the Native Americans is also influenced by Johnny Cash who recorded ‘Bitter Tears: Ballads of the American Indian’ in 1964.
Cory Chisel’s performance was one which will live long in the memory with its incredible substance and emotional power. Music has the ability to move its listener and Chisel certainly knows how to achieve this.