The Mountain Times

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Rockin’ the Region with The Honky Tonk Knights

Newport, RI has brought a lot of new employees to Killington recently and now they're bringing some old school country music in the form of The Honky Tonk Knights. You have two opportunities to see this great band and that is Thursday at Jax Food & Games and Friday at The Foundry.

They are a hard working band made up of Steve Cerilli on guitar & telecaster, Wil Cooley on upright bass and Jay White on drums.

They play eight shows a week in the summer. Cerilli has three on Sunday alone, two with HTK and another at night playing keyboard with a reggae band.

The band was formed after a late night excursion at their local Mexican restaurant; Perro Salado. Cerilli was hanging with owners Andy and Dan one night when Hank Williams came on the CD player. Andy and Dan started "slop dancing" or swing dancing as its better known and Cerilli says, "I gotta put together a Honky Tonk band for this joint, that's what we really need." Both owners shouted, "Yes!" So, Cerilli had a new project and he knew that the key to the band was finding a bass player. He and White have known each other for 19 years. Cerilli found Cooley on Craigslist. He had just moved to Rhode Island after playing in the rockabilly scene in Brooklyn, NY. Cerilli sent him a few original songs he had been working on. One night soon after, they all met for the first time at Cerilli's house. Cerilli says, "OK kid, let's go" and they walked across the street and played for the owners who loved it.

Since May of 2009 that's been their every Thursday night gig, never missing one except for this gig.

Prominent in their first set is Bakersfield Sound which is a genre of late 50's country music played by the likes of Merle Haggard and Buck Owens and the Buckaroos. They also play some Western Swing like Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys. Every show they also play a dozen or so originals that range from classic themes of breaking hearts and hearts broken.

Personally, I'm looking forward to hearing 'Vodka Soda' which is their love song, their anthem. They also always play at least three songs by Snooks Eaglin who is a favorite of Cerilli's who he tries to push on people "because it's so good."

Cerilli's upbringing is as a blues piano player so he followed Dr. John and Professor Long Hair. He grew up with the Rolling Stones and Gram Parsons so you'll hear a little mix of that too. Cooley does the classic Elvis from the Sun Sessions era and rockabilly like "Drinking Wine, Spo Dee O Dee." He also has the higher voice of the group which works nice with their Beatles tunes. They're all lead vocalists so they have very tight harmonies. Cerilli says, "It rounds out nice because we're hitting the real roots country, no modern country." Their originals are a blend of their favorites but party music style with dancing. All that is in the music gumbo they play.

By request, when the party is really hopping, Cooley will climb up the bass. It's a sight to be scene and hopefully will be seen by us. Cerilli loves this band. He says, "It was the right time, the right personnel. No drama, we all get along. It's cool, we just work and we're a hard working band playing eight shows a week. We love to just crank it out, that's the reason we do it. I do it to break a sweat and power through the night. The grind is part of the lure for me. If it was super easy to do, I'd be bored. The idea is like farming, work ethic music. Growing music day by day. We're into it," Cerilli says.