Austin, Texas-based band Wood & Wire, which has recently released its second full-length album, The Coast, is one of the most energetic young bluegrass bands I’ve heard recently. Their music is an interesting combination of rough and polished, where solid instrumentation mixed with frenetic picking and Americana-influenced vocals create an enjoyable progressive bluegrass sound.
While their 2013 self-titled effort was a nice debut, the group has honed its sound over the past two years, giving the all-original songs of The Coast a more cohesive feel. They switched up the band lineup a bit along the way, as well, adding new mandolin player Billy Bright to the original band core of Tony Kamel (guitar and vocals), Dominic Fisher (bass and vocals), and Trevor Smith (banjo). However, Bright’s addition came after the recording of this album, and the group called on Andy Leftwich to take care of mandolin (and fiddle on one track) here. Jason Carter also guests on fiddle, adding a traditional edge to several numbers.
The group kicks things off on a high note with Anne Marie, a rollicking, banjo-guided number that was written about Kamel’s grandparents. The “opposites attract” story of a rowdy young man who marries the “pure and pretty” Anne Marie is one of the highlights of the album. Greener Grass is another enjoyable upbeat number, with a fresh, clear sound reminiscent of Tim O’Brien. Leftwich’s fiddling adds a cheerful feel to this story of a rambler. Dancin’ On My Grave is a cheeky dismissal from the singer to his ex-girlfriend. After he hears that she still talks about how much she hates him years after their breakup, he invites her to dance on his grave when he’s gone.
Love Gone Wrong and Lonesome & Blue lean toward traditional grass, both in sound and subject matter. The feverishly-paced former finds the singer pining after the woman who left him (“all that I have are the memories of you and this cold heart that you left behind”) while the latter is a heartbreak-laden, country-tinged waltz. Torture of Love could have been taken from the repertoire of Jimmy Martin. It’s a tongue-in-cheek thank you to a woman whose cheating allowed the singer to get away from the frustration of being in a relationship with her.
On The Coast, Wood & Wire proves itself an enthusiastic, talented group. Though their music veers toward folk-grass and Americana at times, Smith’s banjo picking and the several nods to tradition throughout the album help keep it grounded in bluegrass. For more information on the band, visit them online at www.woodandwireband.com.