The Championship

For too many years, there’s been an annoying irony to The Championship’s moniker. The Milwaukee band has put out four records, including the new High Feather, and they’ve all been great. At its core, The Championship is a bar band—in the sense that the songs hit the deepest when you’re planted on a bar stool and three whiskeys into a long and misbegotten evening, and also because these guys are still literally playing taverns, amid the same drunken sadsacks that populate their songs, probably in your town as we speak. Of course, there’s a lot more craft and shadowy atmosphere in this music than you get from the typical group grinding out “Mustang Sally” at some anonymous drinking hole. Much of it comes courtesy of the group’s singer-songwriter Joe Crockett, who is blessed with a rich baritone voice and a knowing eye for the stray details of small-town life. Like Bruce Springsteen or Jeff Tweedy, Crockett’s gift is taking what he’s absorbed from his audience and projected it back in the form of sadly alluring yet insistently hopeful rock songs that demand to be played loud out of car windows and queued up on jukeboxes when nobody is ready to go home and face reality just yet.