Today I had the high privilege and distinct honor of sitting in on The Moonshine Show on WKCR, hosted by Matt Winters, where the Kansas City, Missouri based band The Wilders dropped in for a brief, on-air set. The band features Betse Ellis on fiddle, Ike Sheldon on lead vocals and guitar, Nate Gawron on a funky, little upright base, and Phil Wade on Dobro and mandolin.
The Wilders had just come down from the Grey Fox Bluegrass Festival up in Oak Hill, New York which I’ve yet to go to but hear great things. After a brief chat with Matt, the band opened up with “Sorry I Let You Down” off their new album, Someone’s Got to Pay. The new disc, incidentally, is sort of “concept” album, Ike said, based on a murder trial that Phil had been on and had touched on a lot of the usual themes of the old murder ballad.
The song started off with some really high energy rhythmic strumming and strong vocals by Ike. The rest of the band joined in progressively and built up a whole lot of great sound and energy in the WKCR studio. The band could really just turn it up on a dime. It was impressive enough that I’ve decided to head down to their show with the Red Stick Ramblers at Joe’s Pub tonight. I had initially decided not to go because there just isn’t room for dancing at Joe’s which is one of my favorite parts of Ramblers concerts and was missing when I saw them there earlier this year. Two great bands, even with no dancing, was an offer too good to refuse.
The band was a little late into the studio due to some New Jersey traffic and their appearance spilled on over to the traditional country Tennessee Border show. Host of Tennessee Border, Greg Ferguson was nice enough to let Matt use some of his show’s time and as a nod to it the Wilders were kind enough to do the Hank Williams tune, “Honky Tonk Blues.” They closed out the live set with “Broken Down Gambler,” a fiddle tune off their album, and the only song that’s not a Wilders original. The song was fast. The song was tight. Along with the bagel with cream cheese I had it was one awesome Sunday brunch.
Getting to hear honky tonk and string music without mikes was a real treat. It was also the first time I’ve gotten to see a Dobro played from the side where I had full view of the right hand over the strings. Being able to see exactly what was going on with the finger picks as Phil worked the strings was great. I’ll have to befriend some player in the neighborhood and get that more often.