Formed in Oakland, California in the beginning of the new millennium, Whiskerman quickly became a favorite amongst Bay Area audiences with their unique blend of folk-rock coupled with mysterious and profound lyricism and evocative instrumentation. Most shows would end with singer-songwriter Graham Patzner singing at the top of his lungs and sawing away at his fiddle like some crazed madman preaching a mysterious old time religion. In 2011 they released their self-titled debut Whiskerman, the culmination of years of songwriting and woodshedding.

Over time the band’s sound became more and more eclectic, taking on a wide range of influences and highlighting the unique talents of each band member. Shows began to feature increasingly widescreen instrumentation: Patzner’s vocal delivery began to draw more and more from classic soul and gospel singers; drummer Nick Cobbett started playing like Levon Helm; bassist Will Lawrence put some some funk into the low end; and guitarist Charles Lloyd, who joined up after the self-titled debut, added so much to the band with his melodic and soulful guitar playing—some shows even featured Lloyd on sitar, an instrument he’s spent years of his life studying in passionate earnest. Their releases began to reflect this eclectic shift—2014’s Bad News EP featured soul influenced pop songs with horn lines and funky vibes, while 2015’s Nomad featured orchestral pop with delicately layered string sections and darkly cerebral rock n’ roll tunes with electronic flourishes.

Champions is the culmination of all those years, all those records, and all those nights on stage—a masterpiece of wide-ranging scope and ambition, the definitive statement from a band in their prime. Featuring barroom rock n’ roll, blue eyed soul, pastoral folk, and workingman’s blues, the album is a tour de force that takes the listener on a hero’s journey of Dostoevsky-ian proportions. The songs deal with life and love and success and failure and what it means to be alive in a world where everything is small.

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