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King Wilkie
Low Country Suite

Review By Steven Stone
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  On Low Country Suite King Wilkie takes a calculated but risky turn away 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's personnel hasn't changed since 2004, with Drew Breakley on bass, Reid Burgess on mandolin and vocals, John MacDonald on guitar and vocals, Ted Pitney on lead guitar and vocals, Nick Reeb on fiddle, and Abe Spear on banjo. According to John McDonald, " No matter how hard we worked and studied, we realized we'd never sing bluegrass like Del McCoury, so we sat down to work on songs that reflected our own strengths." The results are a set of songs that are "mainly about restlessness, coming of age, and loss of innocence;" just the sort of stuff that might occupy young men's minds after a couple of years of continuous touring. Musically the songs on Low Country Suite 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 on King Wilkie's first disk, with harmonica and guitar solos replacing hot fiddle and banjo breaks.

Produced by Jim Scott, a man who has also worked with Tom Petty, the Dixie Chicks and Red Hot Chile Peppers, Low Country Suite has a more "pop" sonic signature than their first release. Vocals are more up front in the mix, while the overall sound is more relaxed and less hyperkinetic. Solos are also less "look at me" and more "listen to the melody." The judicious addition of percussion, drums, national steel, and dobro gives the music more texture and diversity as well.

While bluegrass purists may find Low Country Suite less to their tastes than the band's first release, anyone who appreciates new acoustic music where boundaries are stretched and new genres created will find much to savor here. On Low Country Suite King Wilkie confirms that when you to follow your own musical truth instead of trying to recreate a previous generation's, the results can be very rewarding.















































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