Hi, there... This page is part of the Slipcue guide to various bluegrass artists, which is part of a much larger Hick Music website. This "guide" is not meant to be comprehensive or authoritative, just a quick look at a few records I've heard recently, as well as some old favorites. Comments or corrections are invited... and recommendations are always welcome!
This page covers the letter "W"
Stephen Wade "Banjo Diary: Lessons From Tradition" (Smithsonian Folkways Records, 2012)
The Wailin' Jennys "40 Days" (Red House Records, 2004)
The Wailin' Jennys "Firecracker" (Red House Records, 2006)
The Wailin' Jennys "Live At The Mauch Chunk Opera House" (Red House Records, 2009)
The Wailin' Jennys "Bright Morning Stars" (Red House Records, 2011)
Frank Wakefield & Red Allen "...And The Kentuckians" (Folkways Records, 1964)
Frank Wakefield & Country Cooking "Frank Wakefield & Country Cooking" (Rounder Records, 1972) (LP)
Frank Wakefield "Blues Stay Away From Me" (Asylum Records) (LP)
Frank Wakefield "...And The Good Old Boys" (Relix Records, 1992)
Frank Wakefield & The Good Old Boys "She's No Angel" (Relix Records, 1992)
Frank Wakefield & Red Allen "The Kitchen Tapes" (Acoustic Disc Records, 1994)
Frank Wakefield "Midnight On The Mandolin" (Patuxent Records, 2000)
Frank Wakefield "Don't Lie To Me" (Patuxent Records, 2003)
Frank Wakefield "That Was Now...This Is Then" (Rosewood Records, 2002)
Cliff Waldron & Bill Emerson "The Best Of Emerson & Waldron" (Rebel Records, 1997)
A retrospective of the East Coast duo of Emerson & Waldron which features, among other gems, their original grassed-up version of Manfred Mann's "Fox On The Run," a song that became a standard in the bluegrass canon. Fun stuff!
Cliff Waldron "Old Friends And Memories" (Rebel Records, 1997)
Cliff Waldron "The Best Of Cliff Waldron" (Rebel Records, 1999)
Early 1970s recordings from Waldron's original lineup of New Shades Of Grass... Great stuff!
Cliff Waldron "Seasons Past" (Rebel Records, 2000)
Cliff Waldron & Paul Williams "Higher Ground" (Rebel Records, 2001)
Like bluegrass gospel bandleader Paul Williams, Cliff Waldron abandoned the secular stage after he got religion, and later came back to the music, largely as a way to spread the holy word. This is a nice pairing, with a somewhat delicate brush-arbor feel to it. Williams tends to goose things up a bit with his band, and it does feel like he's holding back a bit here... Still, if you like truegrass gospel, this is another fine album from the Williams camp. Worth checking out.
Cliff Waldron & The New Shades Of Grass "A Little Ways Down The Road" (Rebel Records, 2002)
Veteran '70s newgrasser Cliff Waldron weighs in with another fun, good-natured album, featuring a fine pair of new tunes by songwriter Brant Miller, the humorous "Axe To Grind," and the sweetly sentimental "Favorite Time Of The Day." Plenty of older, more traditional material as well, and a few unexpected cover tunes, including Karla Bonoff's "Home" (!) and the Harlan Howard oldie, "She's Gone, Gone, Gone." Solid stuff by an old pro.
Cliff Waldron "New Direction" (NSG Records, 2006)
Bradley Walker "Highway Of Dreams" (Rounder Records, 2006)
(Produced by Carl Jackson)
The answer to your question is: yes, you should drop everything you're doing, go out, get this record, take it home and see what all the fuss is about. Put simply, this is one of the finest country/grass records of the decade, and Bradley Walker is a real find. On the very first track, I was reminded of his labelmate, Alecia Nugent, a country-drenched ballad singer who's hung her hat in the bluegrass world, but who could probably make the jump into Top 40 country without batting an eye. Walker has a similar vibe: he's more of a throwback to the older heartsongs tradition of the 1950s and '60s, a guy with a great voice and an outstanding sensitivity for the nuances of the style. Although many of the songs on this album could probably hit the charts if some hat act dude picked 'em up and pumped them up with a few power chords and rock riffs, Walker (thankfully) plays 'em nice and simple, and fans of great, sweet-toned honky-tonk singers such as Carl Smith, Gene Watson, Keith Whitley and Vince Gill will appreciate his mix of conviction and restraint. After a few songs, I cracked open the liner notes and sure enough, Alecia Nugent is there, singing harmony on several songs, as do Sonya Isaacs and Rhonda Vincent, with a slew of high-powered pickers in the mix. The venerable trad-country producer Carl Jackson helped sculpt the sound -- as he did on Nugent's first two albums -- crafting the same sweet mix of heartfelt country and stringband twang. A little light went off and I finally remembered the achingly beautiful duet Nugent sang with Walker on her last album, one of the most alluring gems on a glittering, gorgeous record. As I started to pour over the notes, I realized that Walker was also physically disabled, read a bit further and discovered he has muscular dystrophy, which makes his mastery of the genre that much more impressive. The most important thing, though, is the music, and this is the kind of stuff I love to hear... I'm looking forward to hearing lots more from this fella in the future!
Cory & Jarrod Walker "No Need For Words" (2006)
Cory & Jarrod Walker "New Branches" (2008)
(Produced by Phil Leadbetter)
Abigail Washburn "City Of Refuge" (Rounder Records, 2011)
(Produced by Tucker Martine)
It's kind of hard to get a handle on this one... Banjoist Abgail Washburn, formerly a member of the innovative old-timey band Uncle Earl, has made an abrupt departure from her twangy roots, with this densely-layered folk-fusion outing. The tone is more what I might characterize as Lilith Fair-ish introspective fare, rather than the "indie" pop that others have mentioned. The songs are sort of free-flowing and (to my ears) amorphous - as I say, I couldn't quite get a handle on it, and other than the traditional gospel numbers that close the album out, I would be hard-pressed to tell you what most of the songs were about. Although this didn't really grab me, I'm sure it will be like catnip for some folks - and Washburn is certainly to be applauded for trying something new and breaking out of her old patterns (even if those old patterns had resulted in several very fine records leading up to this one...) Certainly a change of pace... try it for yourself and see what you think.
Sara Watkins - see artist discography
Sean Watkins - see artist discography
Doc & Merle Watson - see artist discography
Eric Weissberg - see artist discography
Pete Wernick "Dr. Banjo Steps Out" (Flying Fish Records, 1978)
The first solo album by banjoist Pete Wernick (of the bands Country Cooking and Hot Rize) is a sweet, sleek affair, with a light touch given to several styles of bluegrass and standards. Not pure traditionalist, Wernick runs his banjo through some sonic processing, mirroring the sort of thing Leo Kottke would do on guitar. Far from being distracting, it's kind of fun, the high-tech flanging playing off the banjo's natural chromatic sound. Several fun, lovely instrumentals and some vocal numbers as well... All in all, a pretty cool record.
Pete Wernick "On A Roll" (Sugar Hill Records, 1993)
A career highpoint. Wernick's picking is nothing short of dazzling, his voice is stronger than on earlier albums, and the arrangements are very solid and concise. A traditional/old-timey album with a well-rounded, modern feel, and lots of pretty melodies. Highly recommended!
Pete Wernick's Live Five "I Tell You What" (Sugar Hill Records, 1996)
Wernick's mix of 'grass and dixieland jazz is clever, but whether it will stick to your ribs is a matter of personal preference. It's joyful music, but kind of goofy in some ways, and the effect varies from track to track -- banjo and xylophone do less for me than banjo and clarinet, for example. It's worth checking out, but might not qualify as a "keeper" for some bluegrass fans.
Pete Wernick's Live Five "Up All Night" (Niwot Records, 2002)
Pete Wernick & Joan Wernick "Windy Mountain" (Niwot Records, 2004)
Pete Wernick & Flexigrass "What The" (Niwot Records, 2007)
Corinne West "Bound For The Living" (Make Records, 2003)
Corinne West "Second Sight" (Make Records, 2007)
(Produced by Mike Marshall)
An intriguing mix of bluegrass and adult-alt/folk-pop sensibilities... Hailing from the San Francisco Bay Area, Corinne West has a tinge of Natalie Merchant and Kate Bush about her, and while her pop-folk mysticism dominates the second half of the album, the twangier stuff is pretty fun at the start, particularly for folks that are into 'grassy music with lyrics that stretch beyond the genre's traditional themes. She's certainly got a wealth of high-power talent backing her up: Darol Anger, Jerry Douglas, Tony Furtado, Mike Marshall and Tony Phillips are among the newgrass heavyweights on this album, making for some pretty compelling melodic passages. Although bluegrass traditionalists won't find much here to dig into, fans of Nickel Creek and its various spinoffs might really get into it... There's a freshness that might draw them in, and it's certainly not the same-old same-old, lyrically. Worth checking out!
Corinne West "The Promise" (Make Records, 2009)
Harry & Jeanie West "Country Bluegrass" (Fantasy Prestige Records, 2000)
A fine reissue of two albums from the '60s boom, with North Carolina native Jeanie West fronting a competent, mildly clattersome band through a nice set of traditional songs and old-timey oldies. Originally issued on LP as Roamin' The Blue Ridge and Country Music In Blue Grass Style, from 1960 or thereabouts. One album has Jeanie West singing unaccompanied, the other is a nice series of rough-cut duets with husband Harry West, music that, as the album title implies, hearkens back to the days when the dividing line between "country" and "old time" music was much more nebulous than it would later become. West's super-rural, unabashedly hillbilly delivery has hints of Molly O'Day's old Depression-era recordings, but also, in an interesting way, of the more contemporary sound of Jimmy Martin, who also melded the bluesiness of country with the propulsive acoustic style adopted by the bluegrass crowd. Country Gentlemen co-founder Bill Emerson contributes solid banjo picking on both albums, anchoring the band, and adding a muscular oompf that helps boost the energy level. The rugged vocals and primitive sound mix might not appeal to everyone, but I think this is an album well worth picking up, particularly for the West's ability to bring out the lyrics in each and every song. (By the way, the West's are still in the acoustic music business -- literally. Here's a link to their music store in North Carolina.)
Harry & Jeanie West "Smoky Mountain Ballads" (Perpetual Records, 2006)
Whetstone Run "Time Sure Flies" (Red Dog Records, 1981) (LP)
Bluegrass music from Pennsylvania, featuring singer Tim Craven who later founded the Rustical Quality String Band, which recorded on the same label... Whetstone Run was formed in the early 1970s and cycled through a wealth of East Coast/Midwestern talent.
Whetstone Run "No Use Frettin' " (Red Dog Records, 1984) (LP)
(Produced by Alan O'Bryant)
This edition of the band featured Lynn Morris on banjo and her future husband Marshall Wilborn on bass, Morris having previously played with the fabled City Limits bluegrass band... The pair stayed with the band until 1986, when it dissolved, and a couple of years later co-founded the Lynn Morris Band, where she carved out a niche as one of bluegrass music's most prominent women...
Buck White & The Whites -- see artist discography
White House "White House" (Pinecastle Records, 2003)
A nice change of pace from the current crop of flawless melodic traditionalist bluegrassers. This band, which takes its name from a musician-packed Nashville suburb, includes Larry Stephenson, Del McCoury's fiddler, Jason Carter, David Parmley of Continental Divide, banjo plunker Charlie Cushman, and bassist Missy Raines, who normally tilts toward the acoustic blues. They're playing a bunch of standard-issue oldies, material by Bill Clifton, Jimmy Martin and the Stanley Brothers, as well as a couple of newer songs by the late Randall Hylton, and the like... But they play in a slightly clompy style -- not old-timey exactly, but not as slick and perfect as most truegrassers these days. Might be too choppy for some modern fans, but for those of us who like a few rough edges, this might help liven things up a bit.
Jeff White "The White Album" (Rounder Records, 1996)
A newgrass album with a light, distinctive touch... Guests (and influences) include Vince Gill, Alison Krauss, and Pete Wernick (of Hot Rize fame...) This may be too soft and mellow for some folks, but the nice moments are rather sweet.
Jeff White "The Broken Road" (Rounder Records, 1999)
Mellow modern stuff, with a progressive, songwriterly bent. White doesn't have a powerful voice, but his understated delivery brings these songs home time and time again. Not dazzling, but nice... and certainly doesn't sound like every other bluegrass album out there. If you're looking for a pleasant new set of original songs (and songs that are new to bluegrass), then this slow-paced album may suit your fancy. Some of the usual suspects -- notably Jerry Douglas and Alison Krauss -- pitch in as well.
Roland White "I Wasn't Born To Rock 'N Roll" (Ridge Runner Records, 1975)
Reissue of a 1975 album, originally on the Ridge Runner label...
Roland White "Trying To Get To You" (Sugar Hill Records, 1994)
(Produced by Butch Baldassari)
Roland White "Jelly On My Tofu" (2002)
Produced by Roland White & Mark Howard)
Tim White & Friends "The Possum Tapes" (Fat Dog Records, 1993)
A funny little record with a bunch of songs about... yup, you guessed it: the humble, bumbling opossum. This is a kooky concept album, sure, but it's also more cohesive than some of White's other comedic outings with the VW Boys. Some heavy hitters chip in on here as well, guest stars including Jim & Jesse, Jimmy Martin, Carl Jackson and others. An odd album, but charming. Besides... who knew there were so many songs about possums? Pogo would be proud.
Whitetop Mountain Band "Echoes Of The Blue Ridge" (Epecho Records, 2005)
The Whitetop Mountain Band "Bull Plus 10%" (Arhoolie Records, 2006)
YEE-HAW. This record is a real treat -- an uncompromised, uncomplicated, absolutely gleeful live set of good-old, old-timey stringband and truegrass tunes... Lots of standards, songs you'll recognize, a few you won't, all delivered with complete sincerity and the sort of pure, unselfconscious enjoyment that is all too rare in our too-cool, media-saturated culture. This disc is a lot of fun, with lively fiddling and puckish vocals by Emily and Martha Spencer... Recommended!
Keith Whitley & Ricky Skaggs "Second Generation" (Rebel Records, 1971)
These early '70s recordings capture two young members of Ralph Stanley's Clinch Mountain Boys just as they were about to go out on their own as vanguard members of the newgrass generation. Both Keith Whitley and Ricky Skaggs cut new roads in the '70s country renaissance, and in the next decade each also successfully moved into the world of commercial Top 40 Country. But here they are, young and earnest as can be, singing pure, sweet bluegrass and playing with a magical melodic grace. This album was originally a modest release, not entirely off the radar, and a welcome surprise for the bluegrass faithful, though not a blockbuster hit by a long shot. Now, decades later, it's a wonderful document of two master musicians in their early years. Plus, it's just enchanting -- great music performed with real feeling. Thank goodness Rebel dusted this one off for modern listeners to check out again... it's highly recommended!
Marshall Wilborn "Root 5: Bass & Banjo" (Pinecastle Records, 1999)
Atypical, whimsical instrumentals featuring bass player Marshall Wilborn and a slew of banjo pickin' buddies, including Lynn Morris, Tom Adams and Pete Wernick, as well as Tony Furtado playing dobro on one tune. Just by their nature, these instrumental duets sound a bit different than your standard-issue four- or five-piece bluegrass bands... However it's also not quite all out-there or slick as the stuff by the space-grass crowd.
Wild & Blue "Heirloom" (Pinecastle Records, 1993)
Wild & Blue "Come On In And Make Yourself At Home" (Pinecastle Records, 1994)
The Wilders "The Wilders" (1999)
The Wilders "On The Wings Of A Dove" (Free Dirt Records, 2002)
The Wilders "Spring A Leak" (Free Dirt Records, 2003)
The Wilders "Throw Down" (Rural Grit Records, 2006)
Listen up, folks, this is the single best dang twang disc I've heard all year... At least it's the most striking -- the album opens with a blistering, foot-stomping breakdown called "Hawk's Got A Chicken And Flew In The Woods," featuring lively fiddling by Betse Ellis, then tromps along into "Honky Tonk Habit," one of the catchiest alt-country honkytonk tunes I've heard in years. This is only one of several great original songs written by the band, including the haunting post-Katrina lament, "After The Levee's Gone." Make no mistake about it: this Kansas City crew is one talented bunch of pickers... and they write some fine original songs, as well. Their sound is primarily bluegrass-based, but they are also genuinely tapped into old-school honkytonk, suggesting a much welcome blend of bluesy, Jimmy Martin-style truegrass and happy-sounding heartbreak, ala Hank Thompson or Johnny Horton. When I first put it on, this album knocked my socks off, instantly catching my attention and kept my toes tapping from start to finish. The disc was produced by old-timey superstar Dirk Powell, who adds breathless praise of his own in the liner notes... And, hey, if the Wilders are good enough for Dirk Powell, they're sure as heck good enough for me! (Note: this disc is available directly from the band... Check out their website at www.wilderscountry.com )
The Wilders "Someone's Got To Pay" (Free Dirt Records, 2008)
Wildfire "Where Roads Divide" (Pinecastle Records, 2003)
Progressive bluegrass with a vengence. These fellas play pretty straightahead, bouncy melodic style, but they also have room for tunes by commercial country artists such as Deryl Dodd, Keith Urban, and even Nashville old-timers like Bill Anderson (who they cover twice!) The band is best on truegrass sizzlers like Don Reno's "I'm Afraid My Darlin's Gone" and Jimmy Martin's "Last Song," but really, other than a couple of slower tunes, this disc has it all, with a very pleasant momentum & plenty of drive. Worth a spin!
Wildfire "Rattle Of The Chains" (Pinecastle Records, 2005)
Lively, heartfelt, slick yet soulful modern bluegrass, featuring fine lively vocals and some fine slide guitar and dobro pickin' from Phil Ledbetter. This set is more straightforwardly 'grassy and less blues-tinged than Ledbetter's solo albums, though it shares a lot of his heartfelt, earnest enthusiasm... Nice stuff...! If you like traditionally oriented super-professional super-groups like Blue Highway and Kentucky Thunder, you might want to check this disc out.
Wildwood Valley Boys "When I Get Back To Georgia" (Rebel Records, 1999)
Wildwood Valley Boys "I'm A Believer" (Rebel Records, 2000)
An okay-sounding bluegrass gospel album, with some nice harmonies, but kind of muted, low-key picking behind them. Check out their secular stuff a couple of years later & you'll hear an amazing upturn in the musical side of their sound!
Wildwood Valley Boys "Back Country Road" (Rebel Records, 2002)
Quite simply, a stunning traditionalist bluegrass album, with a strong penchant for country-ish heartsongs. The picking, singing and song selection are all fabulous; every song on here really leaps out and draws you in. Highly recommended... One of my favorite bluegrass albums of 2002!
Wildwood Valley Boys "Songs From The Wildwood Valley" (Rebel Records, 2003)
They seem to be slowing things back down a little bit, with a greater emphasis on the vocals and lyrics, and a little less stress on the hot pickin'. As a result, a few of the songs seem a bit too serious, though on balance, it's still a pretty groovy disc, and another strong release. Not as much variety from track to track, though, so it might be best listened to in small doses, along with all the other topnotch truegrass discs that folks are banging out these days.
(Tony Holt And The) Wildwood Valley Boys "Daylight's Burnin' " (Rebel Records, 2006)
Jeanette Williams "Dreams Come True" (Flying Cloud Records, 1994)
Jeanette Williams & Johnny Williams "Johnny & Jeanette Williams" (Major Bluegrass Records, 1996)
Jeanette Williams & Clearwater "Blue Ridge Mountain Sun" (Mid-Knight Records, 1997)
Jeanette Williams "Cherry Blossoms In The Springtime" (Doobie Shea Records, 1999)
Very lovely stuff, with some of the sweetest, most upbeat melodies bluegrass has to offer. Dan Tyminski co-produced this album, which includes contributions by many of the late '90s "usual suspects" (such as Tyminski, Rob Ickes, Ben Isaacs and Aubrie Haynie). On a few numbers this bluegrass Wrecking Crew begins, not too surprisingly, to drift into sugary Alison Krauss-ish territory, but Williams seems to have a pretty clear sense of how she wants her music to sound, and the bouncy melodic drive is seldom lost for long. Really nice record... highly recommended!
Jeanette Williams Band "Too Blue" (Bell Buckle Records, 2002)
Back in the old days, they used to write songs about a dearly beloved mother died and gone to heaven... Here, singer Jeanette Williams updates the old formula with a sombre, powerful song about a parent diminished by Alzheimer's disease, unable to remember her own children as they visit her in the hospital. "I Ought To Know You" opens this disc, but is only one of several striking tunes on here, all delivered in a straightforward, traditionalist bluegrass style. Joining the Williams ensemble is guest fiddler Becky Buller, moonlighting from Valerie Smith's Liberty Pike band. Good stuff -- heartfelt and definitely worth checking out!
Jeanette Williams Band "Get In The Boat" (Bell Buckle Records, 2003)
A nice, heartfelt bluegrass gospel album. May be too Jesus-y for more secular-minded 'grass fans, but there are several nice slow numbers that stand out, particularly "When The Harvest Has Come" and "Come Morning," which both have an old-fashioned brush arbor feel to them.
Jeanette Williams "Thank You For Caring" (Blue Circle Records, 2008)
(Produced by Jeanette Williams, Wesley Easer & Johnny Williams)
Her continuing presence as one of the true independents on the bluegrass scene makes Williams a special performer... She's a strong bluegrass performer, and when the band is cooking behind her, Williams has a nice, lively presence. On this latest outing, however, she edges out into more of a contemporary folk territory than before, with less of a mountain music feel, an a bit more of the poetic-contemplative mood. Likewise, the gospel tunes are less oriented towards high lonesome harmonies or backwoods testifying, and sound more like folk-tinged Southern Gospel. I suppose in that sense there's a little something for everyone here -- I like the faster, twangier truegrass tunes, but I also wish there were more of them on here.
Paul Williams & The Victory Trio "Old Ways & Old Paths" (Rebel Records, 1999)
Another fine, fine bluegrass gospel offering by this soulful old-timer. I think what I like best about this album is ho understated it is: the picking isn't flashy, and the harmonies are just as sweet as they need to be, not a bit more. Williams and his band really know how to deliver their message and then just get out of the way. If you like the picking on the old Bluegrass Album Band records, this'll be a real treat as well.
Paul Williams & Cliff Waldron "Higher Ground" (Rebel Records, 2001)
Like Williams, bluegrass revivalist Cliff Waldron abandoned the secular stage after he got religion, and later came back to the music, although as a way to spread the holy word. This is a nice pairing, with a somewhat delicate brush-arbor feel to it. Williams tends to goose things up a bit with his band, and it does feel like he's holding back a bit here... Still, if you like truegrass gospel, this is another fine album from the Williams camp. Worth checking out.
Paul Williams & The Victory Trio "Hard Working Pilgrim" (Rebel Records, 2001)
Gospel picker Paul Williams consistently blows my mind with pretty much every album he puts out. Sure, maybe the Jesus stuff isn't for everyone, but nobody has better, higher, twangier vocal harmonies than Williams and his pals, and the picking is always first rate as well, particularly his mandolin work. As always, this record rocks from start to finish... If you want some sweet sounding, authentic bluegrass, then this album should fit the bill. Recommended!
Paul Williams & The Victory Trio "I'll Meet You In The Gloryland" (Rebel Records, 2002)
Another fine bluegrass gospel album by this veteran picker... This isn't the most electrifying of his albums, but it's still rock-solid truegrass. Why his band is called the Victory Trio when there are at least four of them is outside of my range of expertise, though. You'll have to ask Williams that one yourself...
Paul Williams & The Victory Trio "The Real Christmas Story" (Rebel Records, 2002)
Paul Williams & The Victory Trio "Living On The Hallelujah Side" (Rebel Records, 2003)
I'd have to say that this album has less to offer the secular bluegrass fan than other Williams efforts -- somehow the religious message seems more forceful and the music less of a balance than on his earlier albums. These guys are still a class act, with swell harmonies and sweet picking, but I think this disc may be more for true believers. I also have to take exception to Paul Humphrey's patriotic anthem, "Liberty And Justice For All," which posits that "strong faith in God" is one of the things our country was founded on, and that anyone who doesn't share William's faith is a traitor who should leave the country. Actually, my mom was an American historian, who specialized in the separation of Church and State, and I can tell you without fear of contradiction that freedom from religious persecution -- including freedom from State-sponsored religion -- was a key part of the founding of the U.S. of A, not the other way around. Characterizing those who "won't uphold God's values" (whatever that means) as "freedom thieves" and "God haters" is corrosive, ill-reasoned, unfair, and deeply, deeply offensive. Yeah, sure, the song is clever and catchy, but it's also destructive and divisive, and the exact opposite of the "love thy neighbor" message in the song's first verse. I like Williams's music and respect both his beliefs and his band, but I truly think he should be ashamed for recording such an arrogant and hate-filled tune. Oh, well. We all make mistakes.
Paul Williams & The Victory Trio "I'll Be No Stranger There" (Rebel Records, 2004)
Paul Williams & The Victory Trio "When The Morning Comes" (Rebel Records, 2005)
Paul Williams & The Victory Trio "Where No One Stands Alone" (Rebel Records, 2007)
Paul Williams & The Victory Trio "What A Journey" (Rebel Records, 2008)
(Produced by Paul Williams)
One of the greatest bluegrass gospel performers alive, old-timer Paul Williams shows -- once again -- that he's got plenty of gas left in the tank. A veteran of the Lonesome Pine Fiddlers and Jimmy Martin's band, and a contemporary of Bill Monroe and the Stanley Brothers, Williams has devoted himself to religious material since the early 1960s, and formed the Victory Trio in 1995 as an outlet for his gospel music. Williams retains the crisp, blues-inflected style of the Jimmy Martin band, giving his music great drive and bounce -- he also has complete mastery of bluegrass quartet harmonies and jubilee vocals, projecting a musical (and spiritual) authority that is wonder to hear. Although he's brought in new, younger vocal talent to beef up the band, with Dan Moneyhun singing lead on several songs, Williams probably doesn't really need the help: on spine-tingling songs such as "Sinner Don't Wait" and "I'll Be Young Again," Williams' makes real the prospect of the great hereafter, and may make even the most secular of bluegrass fans start doing a little adding and subtracting, wondering if they'll make it through the Pearly Gates after all. Good stuff, with plenty of great picking to back it up.
Paul Williams & The Victory Trio "Satisfied" (Rebel Records, 2011)
(Produced by Paul Williams)
Another superlative gospel set from bluegrass old-timer Paul Williams. This is the real deal, rock-hard, fundamentalist Jesus music, with soulful delivery and sharp musicianship. Like Ralph Stanley, Williams is an elderly performer whose passion for the music and the material allows his aged voice to soar and to muster more soulfulness and genuine emotion than performers who are many decades younger. He also has a very talented band, who play with economy and grace, and provide beautiful harmonies, particularly on the quartet tunes. If you like bluegrass gospel -- or even if you don't -- the feeling in these performances is compelling, and well worth checking out. Recommended!
Paul Williams & The Victory Trio "Going To Stay In The Old-Time Way" (Rebel Records, 2012)
Another sweet collection of traditionally-oriented bluegrass gospel from Paul Williams, an old-timer who is perhaps the finest practitioner of this style, other than Dr. Ralph Stanley and Doyle Lawson. A veteran of the golden age of bluegrass, Williams was in Jimmy Martin's classic 1950s band, and as this album demonstrates, he is one of the most vigorous performers left from that generation of bluegrass pioneers. Even taking into account a little technical fiddling around (there's an album credit for "vocal tuning") Williams has a remarkably robust voice, and in song after song he nails what makes this genre so appealing -- the yearning, the emotion, the mix of assurance and humility. As on earlier albums, he includes a mix of older traditional songs and newer material that expands the genre, including several songs by Paul Humphrey, each of which is a gem. If you enjoy either Christian country or just plain old sweet harmony vocals, you'll want to check this album out. Another winner from a bluegrass legend.
Robin & Linda Williams - see artist discography
The Vern Williams Band & Rose Maddox "This Is Rose Maddox" (Arhoolie Records, 1980)
In the early 1980s Rose Maddox, a founding member of the West Coast country scene, an artist who in the 'Forties had pioneered the rollicking riotousness of rockabilly and helped define the bouncy, buoyant sound of California country, was still plugging away and playing local gigs up and down the state... After many years away from the studio she teamed up with the highly regarded Vern Williams bluegrass band for a couple of records that put her back on the map. This first album, a mostly-secular set packed with golden oldies such as "Dark As A Dungeon," "Ashes Of Love," "Silver Threads And Golden Needles" and "Single Girl," is a real doozy. The picking is fine but it's the authority and conviction with which Maddox sings that really makes this set hum. She is a masterful stylist, bringing each song to life so that listeners are completely drawn it. She had a great set of pipes, too -- a powerful performer in her fifth decade of country musicmaking. For some bluegrass fans -- and folks who dig her crazy-sounding old stuff -- this may be a bit low-key, but others will be entranced. Definitely worth checking out.
Vern Williams "Bluegrass From The Gold Country" (Rounder Records, 1981)
An extraordinary set of songs from one of California's best-beloved bands of the late '70s and early '80s. An Arkansas native, bandleader Williams moved West in the early '60s, where he formed a powerful duet with singer Ray Park. When the Vern & Ray duo ran its course, Williams gathered together a troop of talented young pickers, including banjo plunker Keith Little, fiddler Ed Neff, bassist Kevin Thompson and his son, Delbert Williams, on guitar. Their sound was high, tight and very traditional, leaning towards sentimental, nostalgic material, including a brace of Stephen Foster tunes. It's all quite good -- the group's tight, keening harmonies, and laid-back, ensemble style are particularly appealing. This disc combines 22 tracks taken from two sessions from 1980 and '81, when the group had over five years professional experience under its belt, and is the only record the band released in the band's 12-year career, other than two fine LPs made in support of country legend Rose Maddox. It's quite a legacy, and a fine album to have on hand when you just wanna hear some fine, rousing, pure old-fashioned bluegrass. Recommended!
Vern Williams "Traditional Bluegrass" (Arhoolie Records, 2004)
A great set of live performances from the Vern Williams band in its prime, including several live broadcasts on Berkeley, California's radical-left public radio station, KPFA, which has a long history of helping musical artists (even if the folks who run the station don't seem to realize it...) This is some nice, no frills, no nonsense truegrass music, West Coast style... Recommended!
Tony Williamson "All For Naught" (Mandolin Central, 1999)
Tony & Gary Williamson "My Rocky River Home" (Mandolin Central, 1999)
Tony & Gary Williamson "Let Us Cross Over The River" (Doobie Shea Records, 2000)
An understated, heartfelt gospel album, deeply rooted in the old brother duo style of the Blue Sky Boys, et al.... The picking here isn't top-flight, so it doesn't mask the religious content as well as other bluegrass outings might (a warning for those of a more secular bent...) But if you like, say, Doc Watson, this has a similar vibe, and is rather sweet and sincere. Definitely worth checking out.
Tony Williamson "Across The Grain" (Plucked String Records, 2000)
Tony Williamson "Still Light Of The Evening" (Wild Child Records, 2001)
Tony Williamson "Sessions At McBain Mill" (Bonfire Records, 2003)
Tony Williamson "Winter Wonderland" (Copper Creek Records, 1999)
A delicate holiday set, basically solo mandolin versions of Christmas classics, with minimal accompaniment by guitarist Michael Thompson. Perfect for having on in the background while you trim the tree and sip some eggnog.
Windy Hill "Let's Go To The Fair" (2011)
Windy Hill "Lonesome Garbage Man" (2013)
(Produced by Bart Thurbur & Myles Boisen)
Rock solid modern truegrass from a SF Bay Area quartet (and a few extra guests) who really know their stuff. The album opens with a blistering instrumental ("Pinecone Banjo") showcasing the considerable picking talents of banjoist Ryan Breen, who anchors the band but gets a lot of powerful backup by the other fellas as well, notably fiddler Paul Shelasky who adds a sly, old-timey style into the mix. Then they slip into some vocal numbers where the band reveals an unruly, slightly awkward sensibility -- refreshing, actually, in this era of too-perfect slick professionalism. Honestly, the rough edges give these guys a distinctive sound, and harkens back to the Cheap Suit Serenaders' wilfull imperfectionism... which I definitely mean as a compliment. In addition to the picking talent, this album is notable for the wealth of original material, all of quite high calibre. Heartsongs such as "Just To See Who's In My Place" and "You Cheated Three Times" sound like they are straight out of the golden-era, 1950s playbook, but were in fact written by guitarist Thomas Willie, with guitarist Henry Warde and banjoist Breen contributing other gems. It's hard to overstate just how good this album is... Trust me: if you like old school bluegrass, you gotta check these guys out.
Mac Wiseman -- see artist discography
The Wretched Refuse Stringband "The Wretched Refuse Stringband" (Beet Records, 1978) (LP)
(Produced by Richard Schulberg)
This East Coast/NYC old timey/bluegrass ensemble was a loose-knit agglomeration of a lot of major talent, notably banjo whiz Tony Trischka and mandolin picker Andy Statman, as well as fiddlers Alan Kaufman, Johnny Wetz and Richard Schulberg, who all have a grand and glorious time sawing away on these rough-cut melodies. The plunking, heavy rhythms of old-time music predominate, with Trischka playing in a more rhythmic (and less modern, progressive) style than in his better-known bluegrass performances. Banjoists Andy Cahan and Marty Cutler chime in as well -- and a couple of tracks feature vocals, though mostly this is an all-instrumental, foot stomping affair. The liner notes are super-goofy (a tune entitled "Those Wheels Of Karma" is described thusly: "The oldest old-timey tune known (on this planet). The words were transcribed from an ancient parchment discovered in the Middle East: chemical analysis showed it to be part of a larger document carried from the Orient in the third millennia B.C.," gently mocking the competitive push for "authenicity" among the more-traditional-than-thou crowd...) but the giddiness of the writing reflects the joyful performances more than any avant garde, progressive musical leanings... This is a solid old-timey set from start to finish, and a delight for fans of the New Lost City Ramblers, et. al.
Bluegrass Albums - More Letter "W"
Hick Music Index