Wood & Wire are most definitely one of the most exciting young bluegrass acts currently in the scene with their unique fusing of traditional and progressive bluegrass alongside the Texas songwriter tradition. The Austin-based Americana roots juggernauts Wood & Wire can easily rattle off a list of songwriters that inspire them, from Willie Nelson to James McMurtry and everyone in between. But ask them about what it is about Texas that brought us so many great songwriters, and they stop cold. That’s because they don’t romanticize Texas’ culture or its past; they’re too busy working their asses off making new music, writing new songs. This isn’t a land made for quiet reflection, it’s a land made for hard work.
Respect for honest labor is a central theme in Wood & Wire’s new album North of Despair – out April 13 on Blue Corn Music – with songs populated by people like songwriter Tony Kamel’s own grandfather, who built the family’s hunting lodge in Llano, Texas with his own two hands. The characters on the album live large, and aren’t afraid to share their opinions about the modern world. This kind of vivid, haunting songwriting focused on lives spent deep in the countryside is a hallmark of Texas songwriting. But it’s the melding of this hard country songwriting with high-octane bluegrass instrumentation that makes for Wood & Wire’s signature sound. Artists like John Hartford have trod this ground before, blending great songs, bluegrass virtuosity, and a strong sense of place, and Wood & Wire aim to pave the way for Austin’s roots scene, bursting out of the giant expanses of the state with a fully-fledged vision for a new Texan sound. On North of Despair, they bring the ferocity of their live shows to the studio, whipping through barn-burning anthems about hard people in hard times.
Today Glide is excited to premiere the tune “Awake in the Wake”, a haunting number that proves to be one of the best story songs on the album while also showcases the chops of these talented Texans. Tony Kamels smokey vocals as he sings about a Texas flood that caused major damage to Central Texas in 2015. You’d think he was singing about a forlorn community in the ragtag Appalachia just by the aged sadness in his high and lonesome croon. Banjo player Trevor Smith and mandolinist Billy Bright add flourishes of strings to make the mood even more eerie. One of the slower tunes on North of Despair, “Awake in the Wake” perfectly captures this band’s ability to write damn good songs and sing them even better, not to mention show off instrumental prowess.
Sharing the story behind the song, songwriter Tony Kamel has this to say:
“This song is based on a melody that Billy [Bright from Wood & Wire] was composing right around the time that the 1,000 year Memorial Day Flood of 2015 ripped through Central Texas and his own neighborhood near Wimberley, TX. We were at the John Hartford Memorial Fest a week later, having lunch in Nashville, IN, discussing the accounts of century old Cypress trees along the Blanco river sounding like bombs going off as they were snapped in half by a wall of water. A few days later, I had the lyrics.”
North of Despair is due out April 13 on Blue Corn Music. For more music and info visit woodandwireband.com.