You can take the title of The Late Show, the new album by Government Cheese, in two ways.
The first is literal, a reference to the late-night club outings the fabled Bowling Green band played at then-hot Lexington clubs, including The Wrocklage, and the kind of boisterous, boozy fun that came with such nocturnal fun. That plays out in the album's cover art, which depicts a toddler gripping a toy guitar but with a pair of protective adult hands covering his ears.
The second reference might be to the current state of the band. Government Cheese disbanded in 1992, but its members regrouped to make The Late Show. It marks the 30th anniversary of the band's first performance, but the record also represents the desire of guitarists, vocalists and frontmen Tommy Womack (who has remained a visible presence regionally with an Americana-savvy solo career) and Scott Willis (who has worked totally outside the music industry for many years) to pen new music.
"We broke up in '92, but any time a cool gig came about, we decided to do it," Willis says. "Joe (King, Government Cheese's drummer) was working at a radio station in Nashville. He'd say, 'Hey, you guys want to open for this Allman Brothers show?' We'd be, like, third band on the bill. We'd say, 'Yeah.' So that kind of kept us going to where we could all communicate and stuff.
"Then Tommy called me in the fall of '13 and said, 'You want to write some new Cheese songs? I'm always playing acoustic shows now. I want to get the electric guitar out and rock again.' So I thought, 'Great.' Then I called up the rest of the band and there was absolutely no hesitation with anybody. So we all started thinking about what we had to do. By December, we were throwing songs back and forth."
With a lineup completed by bassist Billy Mack Hill and guitarist Chris "Viva" Becker, Government Cheese assembled The Late Show with veteran producer Brad Jones and a batch of 11 deliriously fun electric tunes highlighted by the giddy Feed My Monkey. The music is all solid pop-infused rock. But the mood remains just animated as when the band paraded such fan favorite songs as Fish Stick Day around the country in the late 1980s.
"We did Fish Stick Day as a joke at a live show around '85," Willis says. "It went over so well that people started demanding it. That song was so stupid. It was ridiculous. But it was, like, all people wanted to hear. We would play in Kansas, and people would yell for Fish Stick Day and we would be, 'My God, we're going to be known for that.' But we play that song with pride now and people love it. We play it at almost every show."
Which means it isn't getting played much at all. Government Cheese's current reunion tour consists of three cities — Bowling Green (where Wills still resides), Nashville (which the rest of the band calls home) and Lexington. Its Saturday show at Cosmic Charlie's will mark the first local Government Cheese show in 23 years.
"Playing together now is a blast because we have nothing to lose," Willis says. "We're basically just doing it for fun.
"Brad said in an interview in the studio that this was the most fun thing he has had making a record in a long time. He was saying, 'They don't care. All they want to do is make a great record. There is nothing worse than a band making a sophomore record, because everyone is stressed out trying to make a hit. The Cheese doesn't care about a hit.'
"We're just about leaving a good legacy with a great record while trying to see if we can drag people off the couch and show them a good time."