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The Wilders

The Wilders
(Free Dirt Records)

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The Wilders don't have to prove anything. They've played the BBC, NPR and PBS, with a huge fanbase to show for their work. They've stomped their way across stages with electric live performances of their brand of Americana, which spans alt-country, honky-tonk and bluegrass. Someone's Got to Pay, the group's 2008 album, was based on a real-life murder trial and stuck to a concept, while this latest release is composed of 13 tracks of stripped-down, earnest songs, penned individually by different members of the foursome. The disc provides enough diver­sity to please tastes across the spectrum. A classic riverboat tune, backwoods love songs and tender ballads play to various members' strengths without sacrificing purity. Most of the songwriting credits belong to Nate Gawron. His beautifully layered "Get Up Kid" combines dobro, fiddle, upright bass and acoustic guitar to produce a delicately weathered gem. Lead vocalist Ike Sheldon goes from roadhouse rage ("L.A.") to coming-of-age reflection ("This Old Town"). Weaving them all together is the fiddling of Betse Ellis. Her ode to loneliness, "Things They Say About Home" — on which Ellis contributes her own vocals, glockenspiel and guitar parts — is a touching, resplendent piece about choosing dreams over stagnation. That's the life the Wilders chose 15 years ago, and here they continue to reconcile their urges with grace and inspiration.

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