The singer-songwriter and his band headline The Windjammer on April 14
Gritty Flyright (aka Wes Liston) will release his new single, “Under the Palmetto Moon,” on April 14, the night he headlines The Windjammer with his band, the Music Family.
Wes Liston didn’t grow up dreaming of country music stardom. He left his hometown of Woodruff to earn his bachelor’s degree in education at the University of South Carolina. But after several years of teaching fourth grade, including a few living in a single-wide trailer without electricity in Colleton County, debilitating symptoms of Crohn’s disease forced him out of the classroom. Following a stint running a carpet-cleaning business, the pandemic hit, and the shed behind his family’s James Island brick ranch became a daily refuge.
On a stool built from a saddle, Liston set out to write the stories and lessons of his struggles. His wife, Virginia, encouraged him to play for their neighbor, musician Graham Whorley, who pushed him to perform (and sat in on a few of his early demo tracks, recorded in the shed). Liston adopted his stage name from his grandfather’s frequent reminder to be honest and “Fly right.”
Learn more about Gritty Flywright here.
“Load the Gun,” the infectious opening shuffle on his full-length debut, Tales of the Famously Unknown, released in 2022, tells what’s next. “Fast forward a few years more and I’m singing songs that I write/Check ’em in every now and then and folks don’t seem to mind,” he wails, backed by harmonica and fiddle, sawing away.
A year after his grandfather passed away, Liston wrote “Tripping Through the Fall” while coping with a neurological event that left him in the hospital and unable to speak for more than a month. “Just like you and all your love/My words up and flew away,” he softly sings over meandering pedal steel. It could easily be an early ’90s Clint Black song.
“The whole album is true stories written out in my shed, over tears, trying to cut loose.” —Wes Liston
“Stateman’s Plea,” another track about finding the light through sorrow, sounds purpose-built to be a Darius Rucker anthem. “Carolina, why you hurt me?/Haven’t I served all my time?/Your hills drew my scars/Midlands stole my heart/Now your Lowcountry’s after my mind.” “I’m losing my mind in that song and blaming it on geography,” Liston admits. “The whole album is true stories written out in my shed, over tears, trying to cut loose.”
On up-tempo songs like “Spartanburg County Bound,” Liston channels his grandfather’s swagger. “I love that version of myself, when I can be light-hearted and carefree,” he says. “I can almost hear his voice saying, ‘You’ve got to be true to yourself.’” That’s the approach on his new single, “Underneath a Palmetto Moon.” “It’s a song about taking it easy on the porch at sunset, when everything is just right, and you don’t need to do anything or want to be anywhere else,” says Liston.
Like alt-country stars Sturgill Simpson and Tyler Childers, Liston draws poetry from his rural upbringing, put to melodies influenced by the FM radio country of his ’90s childhood. “It’s the honest stories of a little hick from Woodruff,” he laughs. “I don’t even know if it’s Americana music. It’s just country.”
Listen Up: Watch the music video for opening track, ”Load the Gun.”
Music Review on Gritty Flyright: