REVIEW: Sons of Bill’s “Oh God Ma’am” is Tight, Smart, and Literate


At a recent concert I attended, the artist mentioned a recent album to the audience, who responded with applause. The artist asked, “Are you clapping because you know what a huge effort it is to make an album?” The Sons of Bill most certainly know what a huge effort – and a sacrifice – it is to make an album. During the making of Oh God Ma’am (Loose Music), youngest brother James Wilson severed five tendons and the median nerve in his right hand. He may never play guitar again.

As the children of a professor of philosophical theology and Southern literature (as well as a musician), Bill Wilson, the eponymous Sons of Bill – brothers Sam, Abe and James – have a different take on Southern rock, both lyrically and sonically. You’ll find a reference to Chekov in the lead track: “Sadder, Sweeter, Father Away.”  The lyrics here are tight, smart, and literate. If a lot of Southern rock revels in the concept of the dirty South, the Sons of Bill celebrate its high culture.

The Sons of Bills’ previous album, the breakout Love and Logic, while just as lyrically ambitious, had a more traditional sound that might be considered alt-country. On that album, the band made more use of acoustic instruments, and there was some twang in their guitars. Oh God Ma’am moves away from the acoustic instrumentation, and sounds more heavily produced. I’d almost say that this is more of an indie rock album.

Whatever genre you call Oh God Ma’am, the sons of Bill have released an excellent follow-up to their breakout record. The efforts of the Wilson brothers and their bandmates, bassist Seth Green and drummer Todd Wellons, with the assistance of Jeremy Clark (synths), Danny Mitchell (piano), Molly Parden (vocals, guitar), Tommy Parkinson (drums), and Jerry Roe (drums, percussion), have paid off in an album that sounds great. How listeners feel about it, though, may depend on their flexibility as to genres and sounds. Those who are open to the band exploring new horizons are in for a treat.  Give it a listen, here.

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