Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

CD Review: The Wiyos – Broken Land Bell

Their best album. It’s amazing how much energy the Wiyos get out of a couple of acoustic guitars, harmonica and upright bass – and to their further credit, the quality of the songs and the playing here transcends the presence of a human beatbox. Cross-pollination is usually a good thing, but this time it is not, and happily the hip-hop effects are mostly buried in the mix on all but a couple of the songs. Which represent the Wiyos’ inimitable blend of rousing 1920s-style hokum blues, ragtime, guitar swing and oldtimey hillbilly songs – everything here sound live, which is especially fortuitous since their concerts are reliably high-intensity affairs. This one kicks off with a rustic traveling song, followed by another equally jaunty number, then a starkly minor-key banjo tune. There are also a couple of hobo songs here, one a cautionary tale to stay one step ahead of the law, the other a soaring tribute to the excitement of riding the rails. Singer/guitarist Parrish Ellis’ Angeline has a Hank Williams-gone-cajun feel; guitarist Teddy Weber’s Green Bottle #6 is jazzy and swinging with a sweet lapsteel solo. By contrast, Drum, by frontman/harmonica player Michael Farkas is a dark and aptly aphoristic antiwar number with train-whistle steel guitar. The album wraps up with a deliriously fun country drinking song, a ballad that starts out hypnotic with an early Grateful Dead feel before picking up steam, and the vividly lyrical, wary Valentina, a thoughtful evocation of a girl stuck in a city that once made a great place to hide but has now swallowed her whole. “The kings can’t grow up to be kings,” Farkas muses – it’s an anthem of sorts for the new depression. Steampunks everywhere will be salivating for this. The Wiyos got their start here and make frequent return trips – these guys live on the road, watch this space for future NYC dates.

October 28, 2009 Posted by | Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Concert Review: The Wiyos with Steppin In It at Joe’s Pub, NYC 3/7/09

by Vanessa Lee Raymond

 

Joe’s Pub was cooking this Saturday night and the packed room positively hummed in anticipation. We found a perch at the bar just before the start of the show, and were pleased to find our drinks slung by none other than that ole whiskey drinker Josiah Early, a fellow roots musician.

 

Openers Steppin’ In It did us proud with their easy, laid-back oldtimey vibe. Frontman Joshua Davis kept the tone sweet and low with melodious vocals. Steel guitarist Joe Wilson did a small amount of show stealing, but we didn’t mind. And we must concede that the band is definitely getting their bang for their buck with accordionist/trumpeter/harmonica player Andy Wilson. In fact, across the board, the group’s lean roots songwriting matched their impressive musicianship. The sheer number of instruments the quartet played was astonishing – if anyone can explain the roster of oddly shaped mouth harps and flutes Wilson played throughout the evening, do tell. We’re intrigued.

 

Under the Wiyos’ marquee the stage became a street market for sounds, each musician hawking his wares in earnest. In addition to stellar steel guitar playing, driving bass, a theatre of vocals and solid guitar, we were presented with harmonicas, kazoos, wash-board, twin megaphones, beat box vocals, ukulele and an array of vocalizations and miniature noise-makers. The evening was marked with driving rhythms and witty repartee. Michael Farkas on lead vocals wooed the crowd with his winsome looks and shoe-shiner’s voice. Joebass lost his hat in the midst of a particularly hard-hitting tune. Parrish Ellis imparted a revealing road story (I thought what happens on tour stays on tour, no?) and educated us on the complex grammar of “faux-French.” The crowd was caught up in a circus of sound that whirled in with a beat boxer and whooshed out with a 10-piece encore comprised of the two touring bands and two special guests.

 

All in all we’re glad to see that the Wiyos are keeping good company, and it’s good to see them stop by their old stomping grounds every once in a while. We hope they make good on their promise to present the 10-piece ensemble next time they’re in town.

March 9, 2009 Posted by | Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

CD Review – The Wiyos

Like any other style of music that’s currently played, oldtimey music keeps evolving, maybe as much as it did eighty years ago before it went out of vogue, then eventually started leaking out of the archives, became retro and in demand again. Plus ca change. At the front of the parade are New York expats the Wiyos, best known for their frenetic live shows, but they also put out good cds and this one, their latest, is excellent. Recorded live to two-track tape, it maintains the energy and immediacy of 1920s blues and hillbilly music. Main songwriter Parrish Ellis’ playing on resonator guitar, five-string banjo and banjo uke is spiky and inspired, matched by his bandmates Michael Farkas on harmonica and washboard, Joseph Dejarnette on upright bass and Teddy Weber, mainly on acoustic guitar. Lyrically, their songs typically take on a period vernacular, particularly with the catalog of funeral requests on the rather eerie Dying Crapshooter’s Blues and cd’s opening track, the tongue-in-cheek hellraising anthem Jack and Boone.

 

The cd’s strongest suit is its diversity, matching the stark, minor-key stuff with the rueful country string band ballad Hudson Valley Line – “You were gone before you came through the pines” – and the gorgeous, more-apt-than-ever workingman’s lament Silver Spoon. To the band’s further credit, the cheese factor is kept at a minimum – while this is a band that isn’t above using as kazoo for a solo, this isn’t a silly cd (although that song about ants in pants is). Fans of all the A-list, popular retro people – Tom Waits, AA Bondy, the Squirrel Nut Zippers and the Moonlighters will all dig this. The Wiyos play Joe’s Pub on Mar 7 at 7:30 PM

March 3, 2009 Posted by | Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment