No matter if Kansas City’s Wilders are cooking up a spicy rockabilly honky tonk casserole , hauntingly singing of tragedy or regret, or scatter-gunning the sellout crowd with sprightly and uplifting instrumentals, once you’ve seen them, you’ll want more. So do they, and they’d have played all night had they been so allowed. Whether or not there are any tickets remaining for their showcase at Fochabers Speyfest on 30 July I don’t know – but make enquiries and get there if you can.
The simple four-piece line up is deceptive in that they can sound like an Opry orchestra being driven by Casey Jones on something possibly illegal. Not our lovable, strike-breaking Casey, surely? But no drummer’s required when bassman Nate Cawron’s stomping size 11s are doing the rhythm-setting needful and causing alarm to stage carpenters everywhere he totes his trusty slapped upright. Frontman Ike Sheldon is Cawron’s partner-in-rhythm and his indeterminately-badged and bruised vintage guitar makes Willie Nelson’s battered box look like a showroom-fresh example. The cause lies in the frenzy with which Sheldon attacks his instrument, yet he still seems to have affection for it.
Melodically, fiddler Betse Ellis and multi-talented Phil Wade (guitar, dobro, mandolin) with deceptively little effort yet with obvious passion, do the clever and dextrous stuff colouring and texturing the shuffling beats and counterpointing Ike’s bittersweet singing with outrageous fills and searing, soaring solos.
Material-wise, their own songs are of extremely high quality and these are interspersed in their set by respectful takes on the catalogues of Roy Acuff, Hank Williams, Howard Iceberg and the ubiquitous Trad Arr. On a reverse take on stage invasions for the second encore, June Carter’s Ring Of Fire, The Wilders take their places among the audience and if there’s a better demonstration of the skill of invisible trumpet than that displayed by Phil Wade during the Ring Of Fire instrumental break, please send me the You Tube link. Don’t miss them.
As for the venue, Fraser Wilson and his eager beaver team of volunteers are turning the Tin Hut into an ideal venue for small intimate performances in the heart of beautiful Strathbogie, in the true and traditional sprit of community involvement. Big Society, my arse, Prime Minister – this is already reality and has been so for as long as earthlings have gathered in cooperation and community.
Thanks to Dunc at www.bloodygreatpr.com/ for organising guest list places and to Fraser Wilson and the local community for making two adopted toonsers so welcome.