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(From left to right) Jimmy Owens, Steve Jordan, Oscar Villareal, and Stefan Prigmore made quite a racket as Whiskey Jack back in the day. Photo courtesy of Celeste Blair.

On Friday, singer-songwriter Stefan Prigmore is digitally releasing some old tracks recorded with his old band, Whiskey Jack. Officially, Prigmore is dropping them under his own name, as Whiskey Jack no longer exists, but given that their release is in memoriam of Jimmy Owens, Whiskey Jack’s dearly departed lead guitarist, Prigmore wants to give his friend and former bandmate his due regards, showcasing Owens’ heart and talent in his favorite form of expression.

Owens died in 2015 from liver and kidney failure, a tragedy made all the more disheartening since he had cut alcohol out of his life by then. Prigmore said that he and Owens “used to go pretty hard, booze-wise” but that Owens had completely quit drinking by 2010. Six of the songs on Whiskey Jack’s self-titled release come from 2009, and if you were there for when these tunes were new, you can probably picture Owens slaying the solos, nearing the end of his time with the proverbial bottle. I have no idea what state of mind he was in when Whiskey Jack recorded, but the tracks bolster the idea that the now-defunct band fell solidly in that raucous, countrified genre of bluesy bar blasters leaning deep into rock ’n’ roll. They sound like the inner soundtrack to a shitfaced West Texas uncle hanging onto a jukebox, seeing double yet trying triply hard to input whatever combo of numbers activates “Highway to Hell,” accidentally firing up “Whiskey Bent and Hellbound” in the process. If you’ve ever seen a rowdy bar band in a rowdy bar, you know this genre, right down to the soul in Prigmore’s raspy voice and the telepathic rhythm team of bassist Steve Jordan and drummer Oscar Villareal.

The demos are raw, both sonically and lyrically, dealing with the loneliness, loss, and finality parceled into addiction and incarceration, the kind of anthems over which people pour beers out in tribute to the fallen. Sadly, we must pour one out for Owens but not without a grin, because his touch is all over these songs, scribbling licks over Prigmore’s tales of hard luck and hard living like an ’80s metalhead scratching a perfect Thin Lizzy logo in a detention hall desk.

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“He was well loved by everyone who knew him and one of the finest musicians to grace a Fort Worth stage,” Prigmore said. “His death was a difficult shock for everyone who knew him.”

Releasing these old songs is a way for Prigmore to remember his friend, though like any memorial, the heartache shows up no matter what.

“It feels good revisiting these tracks, but there is still a lot of sadness about missing Jimmy,” Prigmore said. “He was one in a million, as a person and musician. He taught me quite a bit about music and humility, and I’m blessed to have known him.”

Whiskey Jack will be available on Friday via Apple Music, Bandcamp, and Spotify, though fans can nab a preview at ​​Patreon.com/StefanPrigmore. — Steve Steward

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