Wire & Wool “Wire & Wool” (Independent, 2016)

cover170x170-1Wire & Wool are a lively 7-piece from Dundee, Scotland. Formed in 2014 they combine elements of bluegrass, folk and country with energy akin to punk. As with their American counterparts, North Carolina band Chatham County Line , the well-structured unit may push back boundaries, but at the same time they respect the old values. Recorded up in Perth, members Mark Hand (mandolin, vocals), Alex Riach (fiddle, vocals), Jimmy Buchan Wright (banjo, vocals), Hazel Martin fiddle, vocals), Theo Barnard (guitar, vocals), James Hall (double bass, vocals) and Barry Nisbet (fiddle, vocals) are a fiddle-driven unit, and a handy clean set of players at that.

Since they were formed, Wire & Wool have won acclaim through their dynamic live performances, in and around Dundee, as well as at Celtic Connections, the Southern Fried Festival, Skye; more recently they made the leap of faith to perform at the La Roche Festival in the Alps. They wrote all the songs that bridge the gap between America’s Southern Appalachians and Scotland’s Mountains and urban bottomland of the River Dee.

The focus on living in the country, ferry landings; love separated by stretches of water and a common love of a little merriment, and with the kick of a mule love to dance them selves silly. Just when I thought I had heard of the genre pretty much all they had to offer, the listener is given a moody, bluesy fashioned “Baltimore.”

Stout folk ballad “Here I Am Again” likewise eases them away from their staple bluegrass diet; and with more fine story telling lead vocals and able accompaniment the pace slows, majestically.

Normal service quickly resumes through old sounding mountain inspired ballad, “Up In Smoke”; driven by double bass, mandolin, banjo and whisky laden, honest to goodness roving lead vocals, and you have yet more quality fiddle playing. On this occasion, I detect a likeness in the style not too dissimilar to bluegrass legend Kenny Baker (Bill Monroe). Later on Hazel Martin takes on the role of lead vocalist, and with frenetic rhythm banjo, double bass, fiddles and mandolin plus harmony vocals “The Other Side” lacks nothing in vitality.

Earlier in the running order the band hand out darting folk cum bluegrass gem, “What Would Eric Say”, the beautiful, flowing fiddle warmed “The Harbour’s Call” and lonesome sounding ballad “The Widower,” while the band’s punk side shows on a rousing rebel yell fired version of “Drunken Sailor” – a song you either love or would rather leave to rot at the bottom of some deep dark ocean.

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