King Wilkie takes a calculated but risky turn from bluegrass, toward new acoustic music. Unlike their 2004 release, Broke, which was very much in the modern hot-picker bluegrass mold, Low Country Suite concentrates on expanding their musical style into more complex musical structures and intellectual themes.
King Wilkie is Drew Breakley (bass), Reid Burgess (mandolin and vocals), John MacDonald (guitar and vocals), Ted Pitney (lead guitar and vocals), Nick Reeb (fiddle), and Abe Spear (banjo).
Musically, the songs here temper the band’s original bluegrass direction with blues, string-band, and rockabilly influences. The song “Savannah” reminds me of some of Robbie Robertson’s best songs, juxtaposing Southern imagery with personal pathos, wrapped in a traditional melodic structure. The pacing of Low Country Suite, is far less rushed than King Wilkie’s first disk, with harmonica and guitar solos replacing hot fiddle and banjo breaks. Vocals are more up-front, while the overall sound is more relaxed. Solos are more about the melody, and the judicious addition of percussion, drums, resophonic guitar, and dobro gives the music more texture and diversity, as well.
While bluegrass purists may find Low Country Suite less to their taste, anyone who appreciates new acoustic music where boundaries are stretched and new genres created will find much to savor. Low Country Suite confirms that when an act follows its own musical truth, the results can be very rewarding.
This article originally appeared in VG‘s Aug ’07 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.