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CD REVIEW: North of Despair by Wood & Wire

Not being completely au-fait with the mighty genre that Bluegrass is, I approached this album with a fair degree of musical trepidation. Wood and Wire were formed in 2011 out of Austin, Texas, and with “North of Despair” delivered a fantastic album, which is clearly accessible to the novice.

Let’s start with the instrumentation, and the sheer “musical chops” that is on display. For instance, the instrumental “Summertime Rolls” is the centre piece for some virtuoso playing, highlighted by the interplay between Billy Bright (mandolin) and Trevor Smith (banjo). But let’s not forget Tony Kamel’s guitar ability and Dom Fischer’s bass precision, and we have a serious musical combo. I have read in some journals that this crew are considered outsiders within the Bluegrass fraternity, but if this quality represents the fringe, then how good is the centre?

Most of the songs have a high “hoe-down” intensity about them, but when there is a lull between the musical storm, the transition is startling and effective. For instance, “Texas” is a beautiful song about a bank-robber on the run after his latest escapade, and “Awake in the Wake” with its melancholy music and vocal delivery.

There are so many stand-out tracks, that’s it’s hard to choose. Lies & Money is joyously infectious, “Wingding” is a ‘pedal to the metal, see you at the end’ instrumental, which is guaranteed to get your feet tapping and the broadest smile across your face. “Out With The Tide” concludes the album on the same musical high point that “Kingpin” opened it with.

North of Despair is a tremendous album, and I hope that they get to tour the UK soon. It is both accessible, joyous and oozes integrity. To take one of the song track titles, it really is as “Good As It Gets”. Superb.

by Steve Kinrade

About RJ Frometa

Head Honcho, Editor in Chief and writer here on VENTS. I don't like walking on the beach, but I love playing the guitar and geeking out about music. I am also a movie maniac and 6 hours sleeper.

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