Featured Music: Wednesday, March 18, 2009
McInroe will celebrate the release of his solo debut, Mozelle, this weekend.
Keegan McInroe
Thu at Lola’s, 2736 W 6th St, FW. 817-877-0666.

Catfish Whiskey
performs Fri at the Granada Theater, 3524 Greenville Av, Dallas. 214-824-9933.
Cleaned, Cleansed

Catfish Whiskey frontman Keegan McInroe makes a musical and spiritual transformation.


Last year, the personal and professional lives of musician Keegan McInroe took a sharp turn. In the spring of 2008, the 25-year-old frontman for the blues-folk outfit Catfish Whiskey was managing the band, booking its gigs, and playing live shows as the group supported its debut CD Blood and Bones. Running the business side of the group was wearing him down creatively, though. He really wanted to take a break and write new songs, but the call of the road was insistent: He plowed forward and booked a slew of dates along the East Coast.
Then on May 28, his grandmother succumbed to bone cancer. It wasn’t a complete surprise but was devastating nonetheless. McInroe returned to his grandparents’ home in Levelland, about 30 miles west of Lubbock, to help prepare for the funeral and support his 88-year-old grandfather.
“I moved in [with my grandfather], thinking it would be temporary,” he said. “Then I cancelled Catfish Whiskey’s East Coast shows for the summer, thinking I’d stay [in Levelland] through the end of the year. Then I realized I couldn’t say to my grandfather, ‘You two were together for 63 years, but now it’s time to stop mourning so I can move out.’ And so I decided to relocate there.”
McInroe wrote a song called “Mozelle” –– that was his grandmother’s name –– in the few days between her death and the funeral. It’s a wise, beautiful, acoustic blend of sadness and joy, a celebration of the woman’s life told from his grandfather’s point of view. The old man asked him to perform it and the gospel standard “In the Sweet By and By” at the service. Unbeknownst to McInroe, the church’s audio system was recording his live performances. When he heard them later, he decided he wanted to preserve them in more polished studio versions.
That was the genesis for Mozelle, McInroe’s just-released debut solo CD. Unlike Catfish Whiskey’s signature gothic swamp-rock sound, the album is pared-down, intimate, openly spiritual, and bursting with details from the lives of real and fictional people. “Grandfather’s Boots” is a wry, pretty ode to visits he and the old man made to the family cemetery in Idalou –– his grandfather could relate anecdotes about practically every name on the headstones. (“I said to him, ‘You know more dead people than live ones,’ ” McInroe said with a laugh.) “The Yank” is about a Northern transplant to the South who shoots and kills his drunken son in a field one night. The song deals subtly with regional cultural friction, the consequences of living silently with bitterness, and the dangers of a closed mind.
During the many months that McInroe was gradually writing and recording Mozelle, he returned periodically to Fort Worth to gig with Catfish Whiskey. Meanwhile, another side of him emerged during the 2008 presidential primary season –– a politically curious one. Republican U.S. Rep. and then-candidate Ron Paul of Texas appealed to McInroe because of his plainspokenness and libertarian bent.
“I watched him in the primary debates, and he was talking about the things that my friends and I were talking about,” he said. “He was talking about the root of economic and foreign policy problems, not just the problems themselves. He was a politician saying true things, as far as I could tell.”
Not all of the members of Catfish Whiskey were comfortable endorsing a presidential candidate, so three of them, including McInroe, performed at Ron Paul fund-raisers in Houston, Lake Victoria, and Fort Worth. They called themselves Uncle Ron’s Sons of Liberty. McInroe has since written songs like “We’re Gonna March” and “The Haight” that are calls to resist the status quo nonviolently. (He’d intended to include “March” on Mozelle but decided that this particular juxtaposition of the political with the personal would be jarring.) Such experiences have fired up what McInroe calls “an activist side” that he’s careful not to bludgeon people with at live shows. In friendly conversation, though, he’s not afraid to express strong opinions.
“Just two weeks before his term ended, George W. Bush said he didn’t believe in a literal interpretation of the Bible,” he said. “I thought, ‘Why didn’t you have the nerve to say that while you were in office?’ For me, being a Christian means you follow the teachings of Christ, and those are a lot different than the bastardized ideas of Christianity that the religious right is pushing.”
For the record, McInroe isn’t thrilled with President Obama’s administration, either. For him, it’s a case of the same spoiled wine in attractive new wineskins. The difference now is that when he posts critical comments about Obama on his MySpace blog, McInroe said: “I get the angriest reactions from people who’re so-called friends.”
Right now, promoting Mozelle and continuing his work with Catfish Whiskey are foremost on his mind. After performing several area shows with and without Catfish Whiskey, McInroe plans to hit the road by himself and play clubs and festivals from Arizona to Oregon. During off hours he takes piano and guitar lessons at South Plains College in Lubbock to beef up his musical skills. A new manager handles the business duties for Catfish Whiskey, so McInroe can keep a home base in Levelland with his grandfather. Overall, he’s sanguine about the band’s future.
“Everybody [in the group] is cooking along with their own side projects,” he said. “The truth is, Catfish Whiskey has never made much money, so it’s always been an open-door policy: ‘Play with us as long as you want to, and move on when you need to.’ But we all love playing together. And the more time we spend apart, the better it feels when we get together again.”

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