Tuesday, November 28, 2006

News Update

Well, we are closing in on the end of another year, and there is much to report. We spent the entire week before Thanksgiving in Breaux Bridge, Louisiana, recording our new album at Dirk Powell's Cypress House studio. Specific details of that session will follow in later posts, however, I'll go on record right now and tell you that this will be a landmark in the recorded history of The Wilders. For example, this new album will feature many more of our originals. Everyone in the band contributed new songs and tunes to the project. There's a lot of surprises too. Our old approach of trying to capture our live sound in the studio, was basically thrown out the window. Each song features it's own unique instrumentation and treatment. We recorded in complete isolation wearing headphones to monitor the rest of the band. We overdubbed extensively, building songs up from a rhythmic foundation. Why do this? Because we wanted to make an album that stands on it's own as a total listening experience. In the past, most of the people who bought our albums did so after seeing us live. And so those recordings only served to remind them of the experience. But there has been a significant development in the last year that made us rethink that approach. What happened? We finally signed with a record label.

In the early spring of 2006, I got an email from a young man in the Washington DC area who expressed interest in working with us. He told me he was starting a new label, Free Dirt Records, and he wanted us to be one of his first artists. His enthusiasm was compelling, and we met with him several times over the summer working out the details. This week we have finally inked a deal which not only includes the release of our next album, but also the re-release of "Wings of a Dove", "Spring a Leak" and "Throw Down" on the Free Dirt label. Each of these back catalog titles will be professionally re-mastered, and will feature bonus tracks and a new package design. The reissues will be available sometime in February of 2007. The new album will be slated for release in the early fall of 2007 (think Winfield!!!)

So you got signed, so what? Well, because of retail distribution and marketing, for the first time in our 10 year history, people who have never heard of us will be hearing our album FIRST, before they see us live. This is significant. We can't rely on having a kick butt show to get people to buy our records. This record has to stand on it's own. And it most certainly will. I expect that a very small percentage of our old fans will walk away, scratching their heads when they hear it. But I also expect a much larger percentage to hear it and tell 40 of their friends about it. I also expect it to get a lot more attention from radio stations. Dirk Powell has acquired several vintage microphones since we recorded "Throw Down" and the warmth and quality these mics delivered was unbelievable. Then, with the separation we were able to achieve by isolating all the instruments, the resulting sound quality will be crystal clear and LOUD. And ultimately, the songs are great- full of pain, desperation, loss, love, sacrifice and resignation. Dirk and I were talking one very late night in his studio. He told me, "This album is going to be world class..." I believe him. Other bands may shoot to the top of the mountain a lot faster, but sometimes their momentum carries them right off the other side and they ultimately break up. We've always taken the "little engine that could" approach. Each year we grow a little bit. This album will be a major step up.

I'll go into the actual making of the record in more detail later. In the meantime, be patient and put some money aside so you can buy the reissues in February. They will sound and look fantastic too. And for those who still thirst for our live sound, there are two new live shows on our "listen" page. Check them out at wilderscountry.com/listen.asp

Friday, November 10, 2006


The date: Friday, October 27th 2006
The scene: Pop's Blue Moon Tavern, "on the hill"- St. Louis, Missouri

It was a small, warm feeling room that, if packed (which it was), would hold about 100 people before the fire marshall would object. The bar ran the entire length of one wall, and there were a few tables on the opposite. We were next to the entrance, playing our hearts out in an effort (for once!) to have a decent show in St. Louis. Although we'd played at least two other times in our sister Missouri city, our past experiences had been less than stellar. This time, we thought, we would go to a place where people already hang out, a place with a neighborhood feel, a place small enough, that even if not that many people were there, it would FEEL like we had a great crowd. Then, if we played well, word of mouth would seed our future success.

Only problem was, the St. Louis Cardinals were in the World Series. And they were not just in it, they were WINNING it. And they were not just winning it soon, they were going to win it TONIGHT. The glow of the TV in the opposite corner of the bar was an irresistible draw to the crowd. We did have some fans in the room, but even the diehards in the Wilders T-shirts had their backs to us. Don't get me wrong, everyone was glad we were there, and very supportive. It was just funny because no matter how much they liked us, there was something else very important happening at the same time, in the same room, and their attention was divided at best. Luckily, we were situated so that we could see the game too. As the game moved into the late innings, electricity began to build. You could feel it, it was palpable.

Bottom of the ninth- St. Louis needed three outs to win. They had a decent lead and, short of a rally by the Detroit Tigers, all signs pointed to a victory within a few minutes. Ike looked at me and said, "Let's play Higher Power." This is an old Louvin Brothers gospel tune that we used to do a lot. It's the one we try to get the crowd to help us out with on the choruses, "AMEN! AMEN! THERE'S A HIGHER POWER. AMEN! AMEN! THERE'S A HIGHER POW-WEEEEER".

I kicked it off and the whole room vibrated. The crowd's attention turned to us for a moment, then back to the TV, then back to us. The first chorus came and they jumped right in, "AMEN! AMEN! THERE'S A HIGHER POWER. AMEN! AMEN! THERE'S A HIGHER POW-WEEEEER".

St. Louis got the first out, and the crowd roared. They began to jump up and down, dance and grin. When the chorus came around again, they sang louder, "AMEN! AMEN! THERE'S A HIGHER POWER. AMEN! AMEN! THERE'S A HIGHER POW-WEEEEER". I think everybody in the room thought the same thing...that in our own way, we were HELPING- that if we could all just sing loud enough, and believe hard enough, we could get the next two outs OURSELVES.

Ike finished singing the final verse. He looked at us and said, "keep PLAYING". He started the whole tune over again. It was just too cool. The feeling was electric. "AMEN! AMEN! THERE'S A HIGHER POWER. AMEN! AMEN! THERE'S A HIGHER POW-WEEEEER" . He doubled the chorus as the Cardinals got the second out. The crowd roared, "AMEN! AMEN! THERE'S A HIGHER POWER. AMEN! AMEN! THERE'S A HIGHER POW-WEEEEER". The energy was dizzying. They were locked into it, they sang and watched and sang again, "AMEN! AMEN! THERE'S A HIGHER POWER. AMEN! AMEN! THERE'S A HIGHER POW-WEEEEER".

With only one out to go, it was hard to stop. We so badly wanted the game to end with everybody singing with us. But then things slowed down, as the next batter began to hit foul ball, after foul ball. The St. Louis pitching coach came out to talk things over, and the TV station went to a commercial break. Ike had already sang all the verses twice, so, like it or not, we finished the tune. With sweat dripping out from under my hat, I gazed around the room. Everybody looked like they had just stepped off a roller coaster.

Ike looked at me and said, "Now what?" Then somebody in the crowd yelled out "BUCKET!"... Without batting an eye, we launched into Hank Williams' familiar lament about not being able to "buy no beer". This was St. Louis after all, home of Anheiser Busch, and people in this town take their beer seriously. The crowd began to sway and shimmy as the game resumed. The Detroit batter hit another foul ball. Everyone continued to divide their attention between us and the TV. Our playing was automatic. It was like we weren't even in our bodies playing the instruments. It felt like it was all a giant hallucination. And then it happened, a fly ball hit right to the center fielder. It was over. The St. Louis Cardinals were now World Series champions. The crowd went into hysterics jumping up and down, screaming, and singing "Yeah my bucket's got a hole in it, yeah my buckets got a hOOOOLe in it, yeah my buckets got a HOLE in it, I CAN'T BUY NO BEEEEEEEEER!"

We finished the song triumphantly, and Ike suggested to the crowd that we all take a short break to grab a beer and join in the celebration. It was amazing. People were hugging, kissing, crying. I felt like my face was going to break, I was smiling so wide. All of us in the room had momentarily become one. Our tribe had conquered. It was dizzying. We hugged, and screamed, and danced, and jumped for joy. A round of high fives went down the bar. Everybody cheered, and toasted, and basked in the afterglow. It was a chemical reaction- a unification of feeling occurring at the same moment. The music, the crowd, the game- all of us bonded together at the right time, in the right place, with the right people.

It was one of the most memorable experiences I've ever had playing music.

And I'm a ROYALS fan.