Mac Leaphart fronts a new Waylon-inspired band 

The Honky-Tonk Collective

Charleston favorite and longtime solo artist Mac Leaphart is pumped to be working with a full band again. "It's been great to have people to bring song ideas or lyrics to," says the Greenville native. "I'll show them something and they'll roll with it, take it their own way, and come up with something that's probably more interesting. It's a much more open-minded process than working solo, and we just keep getting better."

The band, My Ragged Company, is comprised of Wilson Pippin on bass, Reid Stone on guitar and vocals, John Picard on drums, and Charlie Thompson on pedal steel. Veterans of the local band scene, they first started collaborating with Leaphart last year at a Beatles vs. Stones tribute show at the Tin Roof (Stone, Picard, and Thompson were playing at the time as Guilt-Ridden Troubadour). After rocking the Stones all night, they decided to come together as a proper group.

The name is an homage to their origins, coming from the Stones' classic "Dead Flowers." And while the band may look a little ragged — in keeping with their outlaw style — they sure don't sound ragged, moving from rockers to heartbreakers and whiskey laments with the ease of your grandpa's Prohibition-era honky-tonk heroes.

The guys have been playing together for a year. They can be found virtually every night playing somewhere around town or across the Southeast. Fresh off of a strong run of shows in Mississippi, they're back in Charleston this Thursday for an opening set with Grace Potter and the Nocturnals at the Music Farm. Somehow, in the midst of their constant playing, they've found the time to lay down six tracks for a new album.

"With the last solo album, Line, Rope, Etc., I just made a record I wanted to make," says the soft-spoken Leaphart. "This time, I'm trying to think about the audience. I'll use a sports analogy because I like sports; it's kind of like I don't want to be some minor league pitcher who has a decent fastball but won't work on the slider that'll get him to the majors. We're evolving, working hard with what we have to make it as good as we can."

Leaphart's Waylon Jennings-inspired style was new to Picard, who mostly specialized in funk and reggae rhythms. The drummer has dived into the country music head first.

"I told JP I wanted to play like Waylon, and he started listening to Waylon's drummer, Richie 'Short Stump' Albright, who has a real strong foot and a unique style of hitting the snare and bass almost at the same time," says Leaphart. "And he studied that and loved it, and now he's got that same rhythm."

And playing together almost every night has brought the band fantastic chemistry. They're so comfortable with each other that they'll ad lib on stage and confidently go in any direction they want.

"We're feeling really good as a band," Leaphart says. "It's great when you feel like you could put us up on any stage and we could do our thing. You know, like if you put us on stage on the Warped Tour or something, we could rock it. We might get kicked off the stage, but we would feel good about how we played. We're making the music we want to make, and after years of trying to get to that point, I'm really appreciating that."

After Line, Rope, Etc., Skope Magazine said of Leaphart that he "may just single-handedly save country music," but after seeing the whole band together, they may just want to take out that "single-handedly" part.


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