With members hailing from across the state, it’s no wonder Americana band Van Winkle & the Spirits take their name from one of the most famous brands of Kentucky’s vintage spirit. With influences ranging from Bluegrass to down-home gospel, the band’s sound is about as quintessentially Kentuckian as a glass of bourbon served neat.
The band is comprised of lead singer Jonathan Tomes of Sonora; bassist David Rich of Bowling Green; lap steel guitarist and Dobro player Jennifer Griffith of Scottsville; guitarist and mandolinist David Erickson of Bowling Green; guitarist Donnie Alvey of Slaughters and drummer Laneus Franklin of Bowling Green.
According to Tomes, the band began in 2011 after he received a phone call from Rich.
“Dave Rich gave me a call and said ‘Hey brother, lets get together and jam and maybe write some songs,’” Tomes said. “And the rest is — well, let’s just say I’ve been blessed and fortunate enough to play in a band of amazing musicians.”
The band has undergone a few lineup changes over the years, with Tomes, Rich and Erickson remaining consistent members. Tomes said the band’s current lineup came together about two years ago.
“I think the cool thing about where Van Winkle is now is we are all fans of each other and so everyone is respectful of each other’s creative influence in the band,” he said.
On Sept. 14, the band released their debut self-titled album, available on streaming platforms. To celebrate, an album release party takes place 8 p.m. CDT Friday at Tidball’s in Bowling Green, a venue Tomes said has been a formative spot for nearly every member of the band.
“Many of us got our start in Tidball’s along with many other bands that have gone on to do incredible things in the music world,” he said. “It has become widely known that they have supported local and original music and they’ve always been supportive of us throughout the years and the different music projects that we’ve been a part of.”
Tomes said audiences can expect to hear the album in full during the release show, along with a few covers. He said he is excited for fans to finally hear their original songs in a recorded format and to celebrate the album’s release.
“Anytime we play, we have one purpose and that’s to move people with our music, whether it be with the lyrics or the rhythm section. ” Tomes said. “So, you can expect to come to a show and do some boot stompin’ and a little grooving.”
Comprised of 10 tracks, the new album was recorded at Barrick Recording Studio in Glasgow and produced by David Barrick. Barrick is known for recording artists such as The Kentucky Headhunters, Black Stone Cherry and The Georgia Thunderbolts.
“If you listen to the record you’ll find it’s pretty broad and it’s probably best described as American roots music or Americana,” Tomes said. “Almost like if The Black Crowes and The Eagles got drunk on bourbon, had a baby and named him Van Winkle.”
The album was released on the same day as the Hardin County AM Rotary Club’s Roktoberfest in downtown Elizabethtown, which included a set from Van Winkle & the Spirits. In addition to playing shows in Bowling Green, the band regularly performs in Elizabethtown, playing at venues such as Bourbon Barrel Tavern and the State Theater.
“We have a strong following in that area and they always show up ready to have a good time when we play in town,” Tomes said of the band’s Hardin County audience.
Now that the band has released their debut album, Tomes said they already are looking forward to their next release.
“It will be refreshing to get back into the creative side and start writing for the next one,” he said. “I’d say we probably have over a dozen songs in the works already.”
Upcoming Van Winkle & the Spirits performances include a Nov. 2 show at Yancey’s Gastropub and Brewery in Glasgow and a Nov. 16 show at Thurman’s Landing in Sonora.
For upcoming show updates and other information, follow the band on Facebook, Instagram and YouTube. Physical copies of the band’s debut album can be purchased at Mellow Matt’s Music and More in Bowling Green or at a performance.