Alex Battles learned how to play the tenor banjo, and subsequently guitar, by playing along with Hank Williams records. These songs became the basis of a repertoire consistent mainly of Johnny Cash, Hank Williams songs, various other covers, and original songs. As these original songs were mostly written within the confines of New York City, their country authenticity may be in doubt. However Battles considers whatever is influenced directly and primarily by Hank Williams to be worthy of the label country and possibly folk music.
Battles also enjoys playing a variety of pop songs at the closings of sets with his band, The Whisky Rebellion. He also sings American popular songbook standards while accompanying himself on piano, although such appearances are rare.From 2005-2020, Battles organized and performed in the Johnny Cash Birthday Bash, NYC Opry, CasHank Hootenanny Jamboree, and the Brooklyn Country Music Festival in New York City.
There are a million places to enjoy a champagne toast at midnight, but where else but at the NYC Opry will revelers raise a complimentary can of Pabst at midnight? This time around, the rootsy showcase features . . . Alex Battles and his Whiskey Rebellion, serving up a sly, catchy mix of old-fashioned country songs.
—TimeOut New York
In 2011, Battles self-released Goodbye Almira, an album of original music available in all electronic formats (Spotify, Apple, YouTube, iHeart). If you are looking to purchase music, head over to this address.
If you happened to be walking along Fifth Avenue between Sterling Place and St. John’s on a recent evening, the shouts of “Ya-hoo!” resounding from the depths of a cavernous bar during a punk-rock rendition of “Hong Kong Collision” were not in your imagination. For onstage at Southpaw, Alex Battles was hollering into the mic, Hilary Hawk was rocking out on the banjo in her red miniskirt, there were guys on standup bass, washboard, electric guitar, and a glass jug at work, and the euphoric crowd just couldn’t help itself. But be careful next time you pass—their fever is catching.One thing is for sure: If the Brooklyn accent can be tinged with Southern twang, if the yuppies of Park Slope can be lured to hootenannies in blue collar bars, if the Williamsburg hipsters can bob their heads to some killer banjo-picking on their iPods, Alex Battles is the man to make it happen.
—Stacey Cook, The Brooklyn Rail
The third annual Brooklyn country Music Festival, brought to you by dock Oscar and Alex Battles, a pair of Kings County country singers, songwriters, and impresarios. The scene takes traditional Nashville and electrified Bakersfield honky-tonk aesthetics as a guide but adds a gritty native pulse, influenced by rumbling subway trains, alternate side of the street parking, and the presence of a few million close neighbors. Oscar’s band Sweet William and Battles’s group the Whisky Rebellion join eleven other acts.
—The New Yorker
The American flag behind the drummer seemed to flutter to the beat of the honky-tonk music while a singer in a cowboy hat crooned about heartache and booze to a crowd that could feel his pain. Except for the yellow cabs glimpsed through the window and the New York Giants football atop a speaker, this could have been a Friday night anywhere in the American heartland. But the cowboy in question, Alex Battles, frontman for the country band Whisky Rebellion, was crooning at Hank’s Saloon, a Brooklyn bar at the heart of New York’s surprisingly lively live country music scene. Paying homage to classic country with a distinctly New York twang, Hank’s and other bars around the city are fast proving that Gotham is a country town at heart.
—Phil Wahba, San Antonio Express-News
“We play for free beer and girls who smile at us,” says Battles, a tireless organizer who performs under the name Whisky Rebellion. In addition to the country festival—where he said he broke even, selling T-shirts to offset the cost of the free hot dogs—he is the force behind the monthly CasHank open mic and pulled together a country/burlesque “Jugfest” benefit for victims of Hurricane Katrina at Southpaw on September 8. For Battles—an Ohio transplant who’s been in New York for 10 years—”Brooklyn Country” is a sort of subgenre, a music for Midwestern transplants, steeped in the ’70s but with a punk ethos, grimier than the musicianship of the Village bluegrass circles.
—Kurt Gottschalk, Village Voice
“Country music fans tend to be a little more generous,” says Alex Battles, front man for The Whisky Rebellion and co-organizer of two new country music festivals in Brooklyn. “They’re willing to do a lot to support this gentle, simple melodic music.”Last year, Brooklyn saw the birth of three country music events: The Brooklyn Country Music Festival, The Kings County Opry and The CasHank Hootenanny Jamboree. The events struck a chord with fans from as far away as Connecticut. They loved the stark, edgy music of the bands, many of whom were influenced by country singers of the 1940s and 1950s.
—Tommy Fernandez, Crain’s New York
Clad in trucker’s hat, brandishing a legal pad full of just-finished lyrics, and a drawling, lazy voice, Battles can wrap audiences around his knotty fingers.
–—Nate Schweber, Village Voice
“As with most unlikely renaissances, Brooklyn’s current Cash – Hank – Hag – Buck – Willie fixation has it its core an unlikely anti-hero. In this case it’s Alex Battles, a 33-year-old singer, banjo-picker, and music publishing staffer. Battles, who began his New York musical career in a Lower East Side comedy club playing the Village People’s “In the Navy” on the banjo, says the reason an event like the Cash birthday bash became a destination for both musicians as well as hipsters is simple: “Everybody loves Johnny Cash.”
—Robert Baird, No Depression
Best Hootenanny Series ~ The last Thursday of every month, Buttermilk hosts the CasHank Hootenanny Jamboree, “an acoustic classic country jam” where everyone is invited to play country songs from before 1970, preferably written by Hank Williams or Johnny Cash. Songs must contain four chords or less, so eager locals, filling the room with their banjos, fiddles, washboards, and tambourines, can follow along. The rowdy strumming, along with a pitcher of Yuengling, is enough to soothe a cowboy’s heartache.
—Lori Cole, The Village Voice
Also, to add to the quality of the Friday, sometimes-NYSX contributor and singer/songwriter Alex Battles was playing in the Freddy’s backroom and did a grand, a “garage” punk rock number called “Hong Kong Collision.” More heartfelt than TSOL’s “Flowers by the Door” and more upbeat than “Vagabonds” by New Model Army (coming to Park Slope, by the way—May 7 at Southpaw), Battles and his Whisky Rebellion act has an easy hit in the making. A triple into the gap, I’d say.
—Spike Vrusho, New York Sports Express