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King Wilkie

Low Country Suite – 2007 (Rounder)

Reviewed by Tim FitzPatrick

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CDs by King Wilkie

How do you follow up a well-received CD and an International Bluegrass Music Association Emerging Artist Award? For King Wilkie, the answer is with a change in direction. But, while many young bluegrass bands move on to jazzier fare where they can show off their instrumental chops, this band opts for more textured, alt.-country sound.

What hasn't changed is their ability to create a mood. They wisely emphasize groove over flash. "Wrecking Ball" is propelled by a tight guitar riff, while "Angeline" has a much looser (but not sloppy) feel. The rhythmic shift in the chorus of "Rockabye (Farewell Lonesome Dove)" helps make it one of the album's stronger tracks.

Many songs find singers John McDonald and Reid Burgess voices blend in a wash of pedal steel, slide guitar and fiddle. Lyrics are sometimes impressionistic, with instrumental spaces between verses and choruses. Mandolin and banjo appear not as lead instruments, but as layers of the sonic landscape.

The result is a mellow, generally pleasing album, which is as likely to win the band new admirers as it is to disappoint bluegrass purists.