Given their confidence and obvious assurance, it’s somewhat surprising that The Tale of Willie Tackett marks only the second time that the Ohio-based band Caney Creek has opted to release a record. However as the saying goes, good things are worth waiting for, and indeed, this outfit offers a decidedly serious sound.
The band originated in 2008 with a jam at a place called the Greenwich Coon Hunters Club, and if the venue’s name doesn’t exactly procure all that much promise, the music that resulted proved far more fortuitous. Having expanded from a trio to a four-piece, the group currently consists of banjo player and bass vocalist Stacy Wilcox, lead and tenor singer and mandolin player Mitch Meadors, bassist and baritone vocalist Joe Robinson, and guitarist and lead and tenor singer Chris Smith.
It’s worth noting that though they come across as an unassuming combo — one with a decided reverence for their roots as well as a strong spiritual sensibility — the sound they make is infectious and impressive, a rich musical mix encompassing bluegrass, ballads, harmony, and happenstance, all of it sung with earnest intent. There are any number of standouts — Home on the Highway, Lead Me To That City, and Still on the Blue Ridge among them — and while there’s only minimal change in tone or tempo or tone — See You in My Dreams and Appalachian Rain are the album’s actual slow songs — the eagerness and enthusiasm they demonstrate overall become both captivating and contagious. The musicians meld their instruments with such fluidity and finesse that the results becomes fully gelled. Wilcox’s fretwork is especially pronounced, but no one player dominates the sound. As an ensemble they share the spotlight, which makes the music markedly cohesive as a result.
That said, several guests mingle in the mix, including the amazing Junior Sisk, who takes a down-home lead vocal on Other Side of Lonesome. Guitarist Clay Hess and a pair of fine fiddlers, Stephen Burwell and Tim Crouch, make cameo appearances as well. They enhance the effort but don’t necessarily make for essential additives. Chalk that up to the fact that Caney Creek flows very well all on its own.