Whatever chemistry this quasi supergroup has concocted, whatever contraband or rare earth/conflict minerals that might be needed for the recipe, someone should bottle it for human consumption, use it for lace up the drinks of the posers who make popular music these days, aerosolize it and fumigate the offices of Music Row, and inject it straight into the veins of all new performer candidates to help save American music. Because that’s the real shit.
Even a name change can’t knock what these guys have going for them off its axis. Originally known as Hill Country, their 2020 self-titled debut album had us all praising for the laid-back, bluegrass-infused country rock sound they discovered that was so easy to warm up to. Their self-titled second album (strange but true) is a bit more expansive and adventurous, but still includes all those good vibes, quality songs and killer harmonies that have made Hill Country, and now The Wilder Blue, your new band. prefer.
Consisting of solo artist and songwriter Zane Williams, singer-songwriter Paul Eason, drummer Lyndon Hughes, multi-instrumentalist Andy Rogers and bassist Sean Rodriguez, The Wilder Blue is one of the projects the most balanced, forward-thinking and collaborative sounds you’ll ever hear in country and roots music. With each member bringing veteran experience and no ego or agenda to the project, this allows each contributor to maximize their strengths and put it to work for a collective effort.
Their sound reminds you of the best of the Eagles and Alabama, finding how to borrow just enough timeless sounds and melodies to be immediately appealing, while putting enough of their own spin on each song to be original and fresh. On their second album, the instrumentation is further advanced. Some of the guitar solos and banjo rolls will blow your mind on this one, and are further highlighted via some extended compositions. You wouldn’t characterize The Wilder Blue as a jam band or anything, but they approach that level of immersion and imagination at several points on this album.
Likewise, they lean even more heavily on the multi-layered harmonies that bolstered their debut record, sometimes devoting dedicated stanzas in songs only to harmonious, almost hot-dog tracks to show how effortlessly their vocals blend into wise arrangements. The Wilder Blue exhibits a high level of musicality compared to what you’re used to from a Texas country band, while remaining not only accessible to all audiences, but incredibly infectious.
what is this album on? Lots of things, really. It’s a bit of country nostalgia here and there, an interesting ghost story in the form of “Shadows and Moonlight,” an inspirational track sung by Paul Eason called “Build Your Wings” (Zane Williams sings most of the leads, while everyone harmonizes). But it’s not really a thematic album. It’s less about making you think and more about putting you in a good mood. It’s also a hell of a selection of road trips.
Even with all the deserved praise for The Wilder Blue’s sound, listening to songs like “Picket Fences” and “Birds Of Youth” – as witty and supportive as they are – one wonders if the band can be a bit pedestrian at times as far as lyricism is concerned. That’s when you come to the eleventh track on the album called “The Kingsnake and the Rattler”. It’s some serious, Townes Van Zant-level poetry crap from Zane Williams, and it adds the exact amount of songwriting weight this album needed to find its balance. Pair that with the ending song “Ghost Of Lincoln” and the album could end with its two strongest tracks.
The assertive bassline of “Feelin’ The Miles” is perhaps a bit too progressive for some country audiences and may remind you of something you might hear in the 80s. miami vice soundtrack. The Wilder Blue expands its sonic boundaries on this record. But as Zane sings in the expanded 6-minute song “The Ol’ Guitar Picker”, “There is only one rule in music. If it sounds good, then it is.
It’s the maxim that guided The Wilder Blue to a sound that no one knew was missing, but now feels immediate and necessary. And it is this beautiful alchemy that they once again find the perfect recipe on their second album.
1 3/4 raised guns (8.5/10)
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