Album Review | Mountain Fever Music | Review by Liam Wilkinson
To hear a mere snippet of anything by The Wildmans is to know that the pure mountain waters of Appalachia flow through this family band’s veins. Whilst we’re blessed to have many bluegrass outfits from further afield, bands that might never have set foot in Virginia, Kentucky or any of the States for that matter, it doesn’t take a trained ear to hear the real thing. With The Wildmans, you know exactly where you are, even when the songs aren’t your typical foggy mountain fare.
On this, their eponymous second album, siblings Eli and Aila Wildman are joined by Victor Furtado on banjo and Sean Newman on bass for a rattlebag of traddy favourites and renditions of well-known compositions. It’s something of a departure from the duo’s mostly traditional 2017 debut, Wandering Thoughts, with slicker production and more mainstream appeal.
The album opens with a thumping version of Dylan’s “You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go”, introducing us to Aila’s beguiling voice, her weeping fiddle and brother Eli’s trickling mandolin, before we’re plunged into the thundering bluegrass sound of the traditional tune, Richmond. There’s a brooding bluesy take on the classic Mississippi Sheiks song “Sitting on Top of the World”, as well a tender reading of the Tedeschi-Trucks Band’s “Midnight in Harlem”, both benefiting from the blue notes of Aila’s fiddle. And it’s nothing short of a treat to hear Dori Freeman’s beautiful “Rid My Mind” in this exceptional band’s reliable hands.