Crooked County's lineup is unusual, but it's one that works for the band's outlaw, rough-and-ready style. Rather than having just one drummer within its ranks, the group's hard-driving sound is backed by a pair of them, and lead vocals are contributed by three members. Toby Purnell and Kurt Squire co-founded Crooked County in 1998 in Bloomington, IN. Purnell can be found on vocals, mandolin, and electric guitar, while Squire plays harmonica. The pair met earlier in the decade when they both played with the Indiana bands Big Mule, Preacher Preacher, and the Mary Janes. Drawing inspiration from Bill Monroe's bluegrass music and Willie Nelson's country sound, they decided to strike out on their own as Crooked County. The band also includes Jason Purnell, Toby Purnell's brother, on acoustic guitar. Merrie Sloan contributes vocals, bass, and guitar, while Josh Bennett adds vocals and bass. The dual drummers are Travis Olsson and Mark Minnick. Shortly after establishing Crooked County, Squire and Toby Purnell began working on Whiskey Burns, the group's 1999 self-released debut. The album featured Jeff Farias on bass. Soon the band added Bennett, Jason Purnell, and Minnick for live gigs throughout the Midwest and Southwest. Farias moved on, settling in Phoenix, AZ, and eventually asking Crooked County to record for his company, Rustic Records. The label issued the band's second release, Drunkard's Lament. Like Toby Purnell and Squire, drummer Minnick also spent time in the Mary Janes. Toby Purnell also played previously with a group known as Ma and Pa Kegle, where he first met Sloan. Drummer Olsson devotes time to a punk group named the Opposition.
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