Lately I’ve found myself fascinated with the roots of alt-country – I guess we just call it Americana these days – spending time trying to trace the line from cowpunk to Uncle Tupelo to the Lumineers and understand why radio is more open to a banjo now than ever before. Sons of Bill were at the forefront of this transition when they released their first record A Far Cry From Freedom in 2006 – yes, they are indeed sons of a Bill (brothers Sam, James and Abe Wilson’s dad) – that melded plaintive lyricism with both an indie-rock reserve and weepy lapsteel. Now back with a Ken Coomer (formerly of Wilco and Uncle Tupelo) produced-LP Love & Logic, their have the weird spot of suddenly epitomizing a genre that didn’t even exist when they began – nonetheless, the five-piece makes music with thick, informed folk roots, a creative restlessness and loose maturity. There’s inertia here, and introspection – beyond atmosphere, beyond simple foot-stompin’ or Mumford banjo-bangin’. There’s a rhyme, and there’s a reason for those “Americana” lines.
Singer James Wilson has been living in East Nashville of late, when not on tour, and little does he know I am also fascinated with one other aspect of his biography: his alma mater. James went to Deep Springs, a teeny college of about twenty six men in California near the Nevada border – it always seemed to me like some sort of intellectual Fight Club where the first rule of Deep Springs is You Do Not Talk About Deep Springs but You Do Talk About Faulkner.
Anyway, we didn’t get James to talk about either, but we did get him to list his Nashville Five. Catch Sons of Bill tomorrow at the High Watt. – MRM
By James Wilson of Sons of Bill
1. Swetts ::: This meat and 3 which began in the 50’s is sort of the epicenter of my neighborhood, and was right across the street from my house in west Nashville. Whenever I was feeling down or just hungry, I would walk across the street and get some comforting advice from a the sweet lady behind the counter and 2 amazing bbq sandwiches for 5.99.
2. The Basement ::: Great rock clubs are usually either intimate or majestic but rarely are they both. This is the sort of dive bar that Metallica plays in. Love it.
3. Moe’s artistic collective ::: A great rehearsal space is key and hard to come by. SIR gives me panic attacks. Moe’s place, right in the heart of 5 points, was a great place to just rent for a couple days and make music when the guys would come in from Virginia. Moe is a wonderful and joyful human being who would always greet us with a smile, incense, and blaring Dizzy Gillespie.
4. Edgefield Billiards ::: I’m terrible at pool– but I had more memorable nights in Nashville going to Edgefield late night with my buddy W.B. Givens and pretending we were sharks. Mostly we’d just get tipsy and blow all our money trying to get the DJ to play U2. He never did.
5. Shakespeare in the Park ::: Community Theater is so important and rarely done so well if its done at all. I had some great nights getting a blanket and some hot chicken and going to Centennial park for a play. I saw “As You Like It” twice. I still have a crush on Rosalind. Great group of folks.