Best known as leader of the Legendary Shack Shakers for the past 20 years, JD Wilkes has a storied reputation for honoring Appalachia’s musical heritage and traditions in general, especially those of his adopted state of Kentucky. His knowledgeable, quirky vision is filled with surprises yet thoroughly respectful of the region’s musical roots.
That vision continues on this, Wilkes’ first solo album. A multi-instrumentalist, he recruited some A-listers for this set of original songs including co-producer and guitarist Jimbo Mathus, veteran of the Squirrel Nut Zippers, and Drive-By Truckers bassist Matt Patton.
Wilkes expands on his vision with a set of 10 brilliant, eclectic numbers – a musical mélange of blues, rockabilly, country, jazz, and more. The guitar riffs and textures on the title song perfectly frame his vocals. Carefully placed instrumental breaks enhance the Phil Spector-flavored “Walk Between The Raindrops” and the jagged, ska-driven “Down In the Hidey Hole.” Subtle guitar filigrees of the sorts Grady Martin played on Marty Robbins’s “El Paso” characterize the Latin-flavored “Moon Bottle.” Wilkes adds banjo to the sparsely arranged “Hoboes Are My Heroes” and “Starlings, KY.”
All told, his solo vision is every bit as rich and compelling as his work with the Shack Shakers.
This article originally appeared in VG May 2018 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.