It's a cold November afternoon nearly two years into the war in Iraq and just days after the results of a gut-wrenching presidential election are tallied, and an e-mail goes out among a set of twenty-something New Yorkers. It's an informal mass notification for a music show in Manhattan, just like thousands that proliferate weekly in the insomniac city. The addressees lie across the typical disaffected hipster spectrum of indie fandom--more or less ironic idolaters of Belle and Sebastian, Death Cab for Cutie, the Notwist, New Pornographers, The Roots, Oukast, Andrew WK, and black metal groups like Mayhem and Dark Throne. But the note of face-saving self-consciousness in the subject header only serves to betray the pure joy in this missive: ""King Wilkie Are Back in Town. Feel Good About America Again!""

This generation's yen for parody and pastiche is a backhanded manifestation of a pained longing for fundamental aesthetic truth. King Wilkie are both exponents of this X-and-Y-generational condition and its soothing balm. When band founders/college roommates Reid Burgess (mandolin and vocals) and Ted Pitney (lead guitar) struck south for a farmhouse in Charlottesville, Virginia, it was with the intent to do something totally new by mastering something totally old. Like their influences the Byrds and the Stones before them, the sextet the two formed and named after bluegrass ""founding father"" Bill Monroe's favorite horse digs deep for the live root of musical tradition and shoots it up with a kind of synthesizing organic sexuality and urbanity that zings through those simple lonesome words. Rendering beloved standards along with Pitney's and Burgess' poignant originals, singer John McDonald and Burgess' warm duets and heartfelt phrasing convey a vital tension between the straight-up, strait-laced, god-fearing past and a soulful, conflicted contemporaneity. Think of it as if the Stanley Brothers, the Louvins, and old Monroe himself had undergone a Foucault seminar or two.

The first thing the young (sub)urbanite notices when he lifts his gaze from his shoes in astonishment at a live King Wilkie show is the virtuosity of the players. The kid accustomed to musical complexity born of painstaking studio overdubbing and electronic futzing experiences the thrill of breakneck live performance by consummate musicians, as the gents seamlessly maneuver around their mics in deft dynamic interchange.

You can't talk about King Wilkie without mentioning that these boys have style. John McDonald (guitar and vocals), the droll master of ceremonies at live shows, looks like he's just sauntered off the pages of GQ in understated button-fronts and sport coats. Banjo player Abe Spear is partial to severe cowboy boots, shirts embroidered with playing cards or rambling roses, and the occasional tweed cap. Fiddler Nick Reeb and bassist Jake Hopping come correct in ties and wool suits, sometimes a full three-pieces' worth. Guitarist/songwriter Ted Pitney's muttonchop sideburns and tousled hair give him the romance of a character out of Poe, while Burgess' curly mane waxes and wanes with an intriguing, Beatlesque periodicity; Burgess has been known to perform wearing a jacket once owned by Monroe that he got as a gift.

All but one of the members were relative newcomers to the genre when King Wilkie recorded Broke for Rebel Records, home to the legendary Ralph Stanley, in late 2003. The album is half originals, two by Burgess and four by Pitney, including ""Broke Down and Lonesome,"" which had become a kind of anthem for their live shows with its suspenseful, trucking banjo and fiddle intro; the rollicking ""All Night Blues,"" the gothic teen tragedy ""Lee and Paige"" and the gospel infused ""Drifting Away."" Jimmy Rodgers' influence on Burgess' vocals is evident in Burgess' wry delivery of Blue Yodel ..7.

King Wilkie's two hundred plus shows and festival appearances in dozens of cities over the next year earned them critical attention and a devoted, growing fan base. In February of 2004, they backed bluegrass elder statesman Peter Rowan at a festival in Boston. Citations and accolades from peers and eminences came in, including appearances on the Grand Ole Opry and the honor of being named the International Bluegrass Music Association's Emerging Artist of the Year. In a short time, King Wilkie went from free shows at bars to headlining in nightclubs, theaters, and concert halls.

With TIERRA DEL FUEGO, an EP of five originals and one cover, of Gram Parsons' ""Juanita,"" King Wilkie has left '60s-era bluegrass pieties behind. Recorded at Nashville's House of David studio and produced by Richard McLaurin and Reid Burgess, the smoky, sexy, bourbon-and-Red Bull concoction is all about the songs, with the band's own compositions coming to the fore. The younger generation will hear an ominous melancholy in Pitney's ""Wrecking Ball"" and ""Boy from Richmond"" that will remind them of Nick Drake. ""Rockabye (Farewell Lonesome Dove),"" features pedal steel by Ben Keith (of Neil Young fame) and vocals that hit at new depth of mournfulness. Burgess' ""Angeline"" is a certifiably infectious, joyous pop tune that establishes him as the Paul McCartney of this group for reasons other than his hair. Asked to describe the essence of the tradition that bore them, Burgess has said: ""People sing high in bluegrass. It's not so much the pitch that's important, but the striving, the feeling, that's sort of the nature of the beast--it can't be effortless. It's gotta be that you're giving it everything you've got."" The beast that is King Wilkie has run out ahead of old Bill Monroe by now, into uncharted territory. But they're carrying his spirit with him, running wild and staying true.

Angeline




Folk/Acoustic Rock/Americana
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Rockabye (Farewell Lonesome Dove)




Folk/Acoustic Rock/Americana
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Boy From Richmond




Folk/Acoustic Rock/Americana
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Stoneman

10/23/2012 10:52:41 AM
Authentically country with great musicianship. Congrats on all that you are doing.

Much Respect,
Stoneman



 

       

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Lauri Your back in the top 2 again today at Country Folk & blue shades of Grass!
Johnny B. I Love "Angeline". Please consider us @ Big Dogs That Talk. I have added you to our "Big Dog Radio". All the best you.
* Your song 'Angeline' has just been added to Groovy Music 10 station!
Lauri Your on top today at Country Folk
* Your song 'Boy From Richmond' has just been added to MOUTAIN RADIO FM station!
* Your song 'Rockabye (Farewell Lonesome Dove)' has just been added to COUNTRY COOKIN' station!
* Your song 'Rockabye (Farewell Lonesome Dove)' has just been added to Roy Muniz "Presents" No Lost Songs. station!
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King Wilkie