The Wildwood Family “Random Number”

In Tempo Musique, 2023

The Bluegrass Abba? Yes, please!

Wildwood Family 'Random Number' cover artSometimes, what you’re expecting isn’t what you get; and when what you’re expecting is something good, and what you get is something even better, then that’s gold dust.  Founded in 2008, The Wildwood Family are a Montreal-based five-piece bluegrass-style band who have been plying their trade around the Quebec region of Canada. They released a self-titled traditional covers album in 2013, and then in the Covid years, discovered their own writing muse, first  with the original French language album ‘Au Mois de Mai’ , and now with their first English language originals, the seven song collection ‘Random Numbers’.

The band comment: “We wanted to write a road trip album. Something that would fit with the old covers of The Carter Sisters that we’ve been playing for years, but with our own spin on it”. Well, honestly, it is easy to see via their name and their back catalogue, that the Carter’s and many other luminaries from the past have played their part in their development. However, anyone expecting a retro sounding album a la Gillian Welch is going to be in for a shock – but hopefully a very pleasant one. 

Single ‘When Rain Turns Into Snow’ is the opener, a very cool minor key song ushered in on mandolin and double bass, then when the vocals come in, straight away, one is struck by the similarity of … Abba! In a good way, obviously. A second voice winds around the lead, then harmonies blend through the chorus, and the production is so rich and warm, it is almost easy to forget that the accompaniment is based around traditional instruments. 

Second track ‘Devil’s Crush’ picks up the thread again, with a super catchy vocal line that builds into a memorable chorus which rises and falls.  Title track ‘Random Number’ just continues the vein of richly warm production, a slickly moody intro before vocals blend and soar above the instrumentation.  The mood of the record is only really varied on last track, ‘Selfish’, which opens with a walking bass and muted trumpet, all jazzy and Latin; but still when the voices start to blend again, some sort of magic happens that is absolutely infectious and infatuating. 

Where they go from here will be a fascinating thing; will they decide to go more traditional, will they become more pop-inflected? It always feels nice to be in on a band before they conquer the world, and this feels a very real possibility. This is a very special record, full of potential and excitement of where the journey might lead. They say it takes ten years to be an overnight success – well, for the Wildwood Family, it’s been fifteen, but they may be all the more ready for it.

If they decide to follow the Abba path – and a folk Abba may be just what the world needs – then working on finding choruses as big as SOS or Take a Chance On Me would likely see them vaulting up the ladder of commercial success. With such musical and vocal strengths in their bag, the one hope is that they are not taken over by some air-brushing producer who waters down their fantastic chemistry. Whatever they decide, though, the future looks bright for this marvellous collective. 

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