The first thing most people heard from Rehab probably was its breakout single, "Bartender Song (Sittin' at a Bar)." The grit in singer Danny Boone's tattered voice had listeners singing along by the second verse.
"It's been a breadwinner for a lot of years," says Boone. "It's crazy, 'cause you have all these other songs you pour your heart and soul into, then the song that you were joking on just blows up."
Those who chose to delve further into Rehab's sound quickly discovered the country bop of "Bartender Song" is not what lies in wait. Partly formed in a rehab facility in Georgia, the original Rehab trio used its passion for music to play with multiple genres. One common storyline plays through all their hip-hop and rock experiments: substance abuse, salvation, redemption, and relapse.
"I was just a rapper at first," says Boone. "But I would have killed to do anything, even if it wasn't a hip-hop track, and it just all seemed to work out."
Rehab is the kind of band people outgrow as they get older. Their music evokes a sense of nostalgia for listeners who recall a memory of partying all night with a catchy Rehab anthem as the backdrop. Just like the party friends who eventually turn into past acquaintances, the songs that meant everything in the moment become a fleeting memory.
But Rehab finds salvation in its ability to appeal to each new generation of callow youth that stumbles upon the band's music. When I discovered Rehab, I wasn't old enough to sit at a bar, and I'd never jacked a lover's piece-of-shit car and then crashed and ditched it, but their hell-raising style and love of catching a buzz was a perfect excuse for me to start catching one. Then, during a rehab stint of my own, I realized that Rehab's stories of good-time dysfunction were actually Boone's personal way of making up for actions of his past. When I realized that, I was able to follow suit.
With a lengthy hiatus between albums and Rehab morphing and bringing its sound up to date every time out, each generation of new listeners thinks it's discovered the next best thing. Few bands are so capable of spanning the gap between SRH diehards and Merle Haggard enthusiasts as Rehab.
"As time goes on, sound changes. Just what's hot and what's not at the time. That obviously influences you some," Boone says of the band's ability to adapt. "We don't really worry about it too much, but there is obviously a desire in every artist to appeal on a mass level. We just kind of keep it fresh by using different producers and getting a different take on the music. You get different vibes on what to do."
Rehab plans on keeping this trend alive with its next album, Whore, expected this summer. The title track shows what Rehab can do to pull in a new listener, but Boone says it doesn't show what the album is about.
"The new album is kind of going back to Southern Discomfort [Rehab's second album] stuff. ['Whore'] was just an attention-getter."