CD Review: The Wilders
The Wilders, new album self-titled CD shows the mark of the progression and maturity of a band that has been blazing trails around the festival cirucit of America and Europe for the last 15 years. This is perhaps their most focused effort intent on expanding their old time music borders deeper into country, bluegrass and folk music with a tight, new,sleek pop sensibility. Not that any of those qualities their fans may have come to love about them are absent. Indeed, on some tracks the stakes seem even higher as the quality of the studio work deepens into layers of complexity instrumentally and in songcraft. For example, the album opens with the more reflective, singer-songwriter based songs by bassist, Nate Gawron, “Ordinary People,” which weaves in and out of minor chords and a blusey dobro accomponiment by Phil Wade, and “Mid-November,” a medium tempo melodic contemporary country song about the weariness of the road. Then, Betse Ellis’ fiddler burns hotter than ever on original instrumental tunes, “Riding On Your High Horse,” and “No.7,” as the band returns to their old festival busting roots. She brings it down a noche for the loving and soulful tribute to her fiddle hero, the late, great John Hartford on the song, “Riverboat.” The song is soothing and stirring as it so hypnotically calls to mind Hartford. It’s hard to believe he wasn’t somewhere in the studio on the day the song was recorded.
Nate’s epic song of the road, “Get up Kid,” plays like the band’s soundtrack for their endless years of touring. This is the centerpiece song of the album by the way it fulfills the intent of the project, that is to expand into new territory while maintaining a strong footing in the soil of their musical roots and signature tradtions. The breakthrough of this song’s production is how it has raised the group’s studio mastry to create something new in terms of sound, style, arrangement and the realization of concept. Special kudos go to Betse for her fiddle work on this song which adds dramatic tension to an already great song.
Ike Sheldon’s “L.A.” captures the existential isolation that artists like Warren Zevon have discovered in their hometown on the west-coast, but from an out-of-town punk-bluegrass-alt country perspective. What sets this new release apart from an already impressive history of recorded work is a new found sense of resonance on songs that ring just a little deeper than before while not losing touch with their foundation of high powered roots music. To take on some new directions while maintaining what their fans have most appealing about them is a risk that pays off well for this latest album.