The Wooks – Flyin’ High
Coming out of Kentucky, contemporary/progressive bluegrass crew The Wooks have released their third album, the 12-cut Flyin’ High (Drops Feb 25–Independent/Can’dAid). The award-winning unit has a colorful diversified showcase that blends traditional with the offbeat.
The band started rather low-key in 2014 & this LP, produced by the band was recorded in two live sessions in Nashville at bluegrass guitarist Jake Stargel’s home studio. They intended to get that feeling that few musicians are willing to try – Bob Dylan made a career of playing his material live in the studio. The band didn’t want any tinkering, multi-tracking, or effects. In a way, their mind set was correct, bluegrass is a down home stripped bare music with lots of feeling, skill & jubilance. Thinking too hard about what goes where, add this, add that – could diminish the showcase.
The music for the most part does indeed possess spirit. There have been personnel changes through their existence, but they have maintained a strong, solid musical base. This time out, it’s 4 key members with several talented guests.
CJ Cain (guitar/vocals), Harry Clark (mandolin/vocals), Allen Cooke (dobro), George Guthrie (banjo/vocals), with Nate Leath (fiddle/2 cuts), Jesse Wells (fiddle/1 cut), Johnny Calamari (bass/7 cuts) & Mike Bub (bass/5 cuts). Detailed on the CD.
The songs, like “What The Rocks Don’t Know,” have a heavy organic sound with a Goose Creek Symphony/Charlie Gearheart sensibility & sound. That ain’t a bad thing either. Sample the Creek’s 1974 Columbia LP “Do Your Thing But Don’t Touch Mine.,” with “Plans of the Lord,” & the astounding medley “Saturday Night at the Grange.” This is specifically where The Wooks ancestry may be…though they don’t know it.
The Wooks do dip into styles performed proficiently by the late singer-songwriter/multi-instrumentalist John Hartford, banjo expert Bela Fleck & mandolinist David Grisman. I guess they’re in good company because at no time do The Wooks imitate – they maintain & refresh the music with marvelous preservation of the genre.
Some notable songs are shaped by colorful characters – the cool acoustic guitar/banjo about the crazy “Tennessee Girl.” Fine storytelling lyric. “Butler Hayes,” “Madison Grimes,” “Iron Ore Betty” (a cover of a John Prine song). “Black & White” is sung in a distinctive classic Ralph Stanley tone. Well done. There’s nothing old hat or feeble here.
Some interesting songs that sparkle includes “Mudfish Momma,” another old-fashioned story tune with jubilant unified/solo singing & playing. The Wooks expertise is incomparable with their somewhat unorthodox approach to the music. But – consistently such a good vibe instrumentally.
To city boys, not all songs will resonate but that’s their loss. There’s a country-rock hybrid to some of The Wooks arrangements — done with a light touch. Bound to perk most ears up.
Color photo from Eventbrite. The 45-minute CD: Available @ https://wookoutamerica.com/