BRONCO ROCK, THE EXPLOSIVE TRADITIONAL COUNTRY / ROCK VIBE FROM HOUSTON’S STORY BOOK ROAD
Growing up in Buffalo, TX (about halfway between Houston and Dallas), Michael A. Coker’s earliest memories are of those sweet rockin’ Saturday nights, watching country greats like Porter Wagoner, Whisperin’ Bill Anderson, and Buck Owens on TV. Mesmerized by them and a cool guitar playing kid in class, he picked up his first axe at age 12, launching a lifelong passion that’s culminated these past six years as co-founder (with fellow singer/guitarist Trevor Reifel) of Story Book Road.
With influences ranging from 90’s country (Brooks & Dunn, Vince Gill, Alan Jackson) to early rock 60’s and 70’s singer-songwriters, the Houston based band of musical vets keep locals and fans just outside the Houston area dancing with a hybrid vibe that’s not straight up country, not quite old school but always rocking.
On their well-received 2018 EP The Window of Your Soul, the group brings their high octane “Bronco Rock” to six of Coker’s originals, featuring the title cut, “Sister Sally,” “It Don’t Mean Nothin’,” “Get Out Tonight,” “Cabin in the Woods” and “Carmen Miranda” – demonstrating Coker’s versatility as a writer. Their high-spirited re-imaginings of classics by greats like Chuck Berry (“Memphis, Tennessee”), Merle Haggard (“Tonight The Bottle Let Me Down”) and Hank Williams, Sr. (“Your Cheatin’ Heart”) have been longstanding parts of the group’s live repertoire, each song laced with a defining Story Book Road twist.
“Sister Sally” is a feisty, percussive toe-tappin’ rocker whose title riffs on the childhood nickname of Coker’s wife Carey. Perfectly blending spiritual ideas with tongue-in-cheek irreverence, the track is a dynamic showcase for Coker and Reifel’s vocal harmonies. Another crowd-pleasing original. “The Jukebox,” offers the perfect mix of contemporary rambunctious rock fun and nostalgic longing. Featuring Reifel and Coker alternating lead vocals, it reflects on an era early in Coker’s life when people consumed and enjoyed music on a whole different level than today.
Singing in church since as far back as he could remember, Coker recalls that his mother was the singer in the family, “and I just tried to keep up with her.” At 16, he and his high school buddies started the band Destination Unknown – and since then, as he says, “I’ve played in more bands than the law should allow. There’s been rock, country, pop, soul, blues – you had to do a variety in the clubs and private gigs we played.”
In 2013, when a mutual friend invited Coker and Trevor to join him for a gig at a club called Blancos, then had an emergency at the last minute, the two decided the show must go on – and they rocked the joint. They decided to put together a band, which evolved into Story Book Road – a name adapted from a street in Irving, Texas near where Coker spent part of his childhood. The band’s rhythm section now includes bassist Art Elder and drummer Bruce Randall.
“The key to making things work for Story Book Road is first and foremost our vocals, the way we trade off leads and do harmonies,” says Coker. “When it comes to the familiar old songs in our set, our criteria is simple: if it’s not danceable, if it makes people in the audience just sit there as we’re spinning our wheels, it’s not in the set. We tend to keep songs on the set list that people recall, and that we know the band can do well. It was great to record a few for this EP. With my originals, the focus is on a good upbeat groove and lyrics that are interesting and make some sort of sense. It’s hard now to pinpoint exactly when the writing started for me – but when I look back on my earlier tunes, I realize that simplicity can be extremely cool. I continue to try to hone the craft daily – trying to create musically and lyrically what the average guy will tap his toe to and get the message presented – and remember!”
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