King Wilkie CD review [Rebel]

Music Reviews
King Wilkie CD review [Rebel]
Apr 20, 2004, 17:50


Whenever technology threatens to eclipse humanity, there comes the inevitable, back-to-basics backlash from the world's artists. In the early 1960s, the folk music revival came about when kids reacted against the alienation they felt from the Space-Age 50s. Recently, the success of the O Brother, Where Art Thou? soundtrack has been cited by many as the spark for a new period of folk revisionism. While it may have been a catalyst, the truth is that the robotic, computer-driven climate of the Noughties was already making the time ripe for another crop of young players inspired by American roots music to come along: San Francisco's Crooked Jades, Massachusetts' Hunger Mountain Boys, Maine's Shiftless Rounders—and, by far the best pickers of the lot, this fine Charlottesville, VA sextet.

Taking its name from Bill Monroe's beloved horse, King Wilkie is a reckless bluegrass machine, roaring down the rails with blinding mandolin, lightning-fast fiddle, and skyrocketing harmonies. And while Wilkie's members have an obvious reverence for those who've gone before (great covers of Jimmie Rodgers, Bill Cox, Jimmie Davis, and others), they never fall prey to the traditionalist spell. Instead they grab and shake the music out of its nostalgic coma, burning off the sterile gloss of the gutless “newgrass” acts in the process. With a contagious love for the genre, these young mountain punks (they look to be in their late 20s or early 30s) play the fast tunes with enough energy and attitude to match any neo-garage band you care to mention; on the weepers they sound so sad it'd make that same tough garage band burst into tears. Despite the encouraging rise of the No Depression scene and the attention O Brother has brought to so-called “old-time” music, it's still the boot-scootin' Nash-trash that rules the country airwaves. King Wilkie is just the bunch to kick its ass the hell off. [Rebel]

-Peter Aaron

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