Wood & Wire
Matt Slusher, who sings and plays mandolin for Wood & Wire, calls their music Dirty Texas Grass. I tend to go with the idea of Texas Americana meets bluegrass. Or the other way around. Their songs vary from the very current to the very old, from Nowhere & Gone, a frustrated road reflection on the desire to get high while listening to Johnny Cash sing a Tom Petty song all the way to the traditional sounding but original Coal Mining One. Take a look at this and you’ll know a lot more about what we’re dealing with here:
After spending a good bit of time with their new self-titled record (out last month), I’ve signed on as a Wood & Wire Head. I’m too old to follow them around the country but I’ll damn sure make time to see them when we’re in the same zip code, or even close. So what is it about this particular group? Tony Kamel’s vocals, for one. Stylistically, there’s a sense of Tim O’Brien in some of his work. You’ll have to hear the whole record to know what I mean but when he sings a new song you feel like it has been around forever.
At the end of the day it’s the old/new thing that reels me in. They know how to follow a mandolin solo with a guitar solo and they aren’t afraid of a banjo. The banjo is sometimes lurking in the background and other times it’s on the verge of a breakdown but all the time it sounds good. The bass ties everything together, sometimes working outside the norms of bluegrass, laying down the doghouse to go electric where conditions require it.
To sum it up, listening to these guys reminds me of a trip to Telluride. If you read my stuff very much you know I’ve spent a lot of time in Town Park, where there’s always a young band or ten with a sound that lets you know they respect the old grass but they’re playing the new grass and it’s okay because it all works. For me, Telluride is at its best is Saturday afternoon, which always seems to include Yonder Mountain String Band and some hot young band like Trampled By Turtles or some such. The sun always seems to shine on Saturday afternoon at Telluride and the people are up, moving to the music, and I can imagine that scene with Wood & Wire playing Mexico, the first cut on this record. I can see the hippies on the wings, dancing, and folks checking their schedule to see who the hell is this. I can see Sam Bush come out in a St. Louis Cardinals jersey and play with these guys. If any of this means anything to you you need to buy this record and if it doesn’t, well, you need to buy it anyway. Trust me on this: These guys can play.
Mando Lines is on Twitter @mando_lines.