Barstool Romeos frontman Andy Pirkle looks like he scored his AARP card during the first Bush presidential administration, but the truth is that he’s only 15 years old.
Okay, no. That’s a lie. The real truth is that Pirkle is… well, it’s really none of your damned business how old he is. But Pirkle does actively cultivate his grizzled appearance, not the least by farming that impossibly long and tangled beard, streaked with grey — a crazy kudzu patch of facial hair that, along with his ubiquitous well-worn overalls and straw hat, makes him look a bit like the Dukes of Hazzard’s Uncle Jesse after a month-long acid bender.
It also adds an extra whiff of authenticity to Pirkle’s southern-fried bar band the Barstool Romeos, which he founded some six years ago along with guitarist Mike McGill. Not that the band needed any extra cred, thank you. Nope, the Romeos’ brand of alternately winsome and shit-kicking trad-country/rockabilly/southern rock would come across as the real deal even if Pirkle didn’t look like a guy who’s been sleeping it off in the melon patch.
Before he was the honky-tonkin’ idol of millions, Pirkle was frontman for a handful of local punk-rock outfits. The country thing was always there, though, an integral part of his East Tennessee upbringing. “I’ve been steeped in country and hillbilly music all my life,” he says. “I found punk rock when I was a teenager, but I’ve been a country fan even longer.
“There’s a long history of country music fans in my family. I loved all the old outlaw country stars, and some of the really old stuff, too, stuff like Lefty Frizzell. So when we started playing country, it was easy to come back to.”
The Barstool Romeos actually began life as Andy Pirkle and the Axis of Evil, finally changing the name a few years ago, mainly at Pirkle’s insistence. Shortly after the name change, the Romeos recorded their first release, “Twisted Steel and Sex Appeal,” a 13-song platter full of booze, blooz, and the occasional tinge of cry-in-your-beer regret.
Local blogger KnoxvilleUrbanGuy described the songs on TSASA as “real country music looking you straight in the eye without blinking.” News Sentinel scribe Wayne Bledsoe said that co-leaders Pirkle and McGill “harmonize like angels who fell out of heaven into a bucket of barbecue.”
Sa-lute! Or so they used to say on “Hee-Haw,” the old ’70s-era cornpone and country music television program, a show on which Pirkle and McGill would have been fitting featured guests, had they only been born a few decades earlier.
Ordinarily a humble fellow, Pirkle knows there’s something extra-special about his current outfit. “In most of the bands I played with before, we’d play a show, and the band would be just background noise,” he says. “But when the Barstool Romeos play, about half the heads in the bar snap up and burn around.
“We get ’em up and dancing, every time. I’ve never seen a bar band that had this effect on a crowd. And I just keep getting more comfortable with these guys up on stage as time goes on.”
In the meantime, the Romeos are long overdue for a second studio effort, and Pirkle says the band will begin recording record #2 in July. Pirkle won’t say much about the next release, other than “we’re staying true to what we were on the first album… but people will see us growing as musicians.”
As for the title of the next album, and other important deets: “I’m keeping my cards cars close to my vest. I’ll just say that we’ve had two years to play this album, and I’m feeling great about it.”
Andy Pirkle and Mike McGill of the Barstool Romeos will play an acoustic set Saturday, June 25 in Scruffy City Hall along with the Baryard Stompers.