Other than avoiding stale old banjo jokes it’s hard to figure out where to start with Steve Wilson (aka ‘Wilson Banjo Co.’). “Man of many talents” or “multi-talented”? Such overused terms don’t do him justice.
A brief glimpse at his resume; talented and respected luthier of his own banjo company, Lead Recording Engineer and Producer for Bonfire Recording Studio (producing for Dale Ann Bradley among many others). Holding his own in Dale Ann Bradley’s band and in Deeper Shade of Blue. Should I toss in his own music projects and also some darn good song-writing? As near as I can figure Steve has nailed down how to live and breathe bluegrass, and he gets to hang out with his musical heroes and friends too!
As for the song writing, most of the Six Degrees of Separation features songs written by Steve Wilson or in collaboration with other songwriters. And it seems that Melanie Wilson is as strong a songwriter as Steve, more on that later.
When other songs are chosen for the album (ie “Midnight On The Highway” – O’Brien, Forster, and Wernick) they actually show the strength of the album as a whole since all the songs hang together so well.
Now, every good bluegrass band can take a shot at the “high and lonesome” sound. One of my own personal tests of a band is that if they can hit “eerie” (think Bill Monroe’s “Scotland”!) then they really have something going. Wilson Banjo Co. does this on the very first song of Six Degrees of Separation with “When The Crow Comes Down.” Do you need to know more about the song than a hanging and a grave deep in the woods? It will have you patting the hairs down on the back of your neck and checking over your shoulder. Although the entire band shines on this intro (as they do on the entire album), to do eerie you really need the right voice (Sara Logan) and a great fiddle (Deanie Richardson), and these two are certainly a great combination.
While there is a LOT of great bluegrass on this album, ranging from traditional sounding bluegrass ballads and gospel to songs tinged with some newgrass sensibilities, there’s no need for me to give a song-by-song review since I can attach a link so you can listen for yourself.
However there are a couple of more songs that really got me to sit up and listen:
I’m struggling to categorize “Colors Of My Life” (written by Melanie and Steve). I hesitate to call it gospel, and certainly not “stained glass bluegrass” in the traditional sense, instead it’s a *very* personal song – what would you say if you wrote a letter to God? Hopefully there are some songwriting awards coming in for this one! “Old Fashioned Ways” is another personal favorite, what I could call a “feet up on the railing” back porch song, one that will make you appreciate life and good music.
There’s a wide range of bluegrass on this album, and you shouldn’t have any problem finding your own favorites.
Not to slight the huge credit due the band, you can find the long and impressive list of musicians involved with this project on the same link! The full album will be available June 4th.