Wed, 19 Nov 2003

King Wilkie

Saw King Wilkie at the Cantab last night. I really like these guys. I know I've seen them a couple times before but for some reason they didn't really make an impression until tonight.

It was great. Very tight harmonies, great instrumental talent, and a strong sense of the traditional flow and feel of bluegrass. The genre as a whole has plenty of young blood, but mostly it's stuff I don't really appreciate—bands like Nickel Creek, who try to push the boundaries forward but give the distinct impression that forward means more like tasteless pop to them. The local scene has a lot of the hyper-talented young musicians who push the bluegrass grenzen forward by being very jazzy and very hip, which is cool and sophisticated, but I never end up actually enjoying listening to them. (Nor, I suspect, does anyone else.)

So I really appreciate the fact that King Wilkie stays, by and large, within the traditional context, keeping you interested and satisfied, while still managing to seem new and fresh. Being successful in a type of music which places as heavy a weight on the traditional sound as bluegrass, replete with apotheosized founder and all, does, involves a delicate balancing act between stagnating and losing touch with your audience. I feel like King Wilkie is right on that edge. It's musicianship that combines taste with talent.