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Non-Prog Concert Reviews

Wilkinson Blades

Live in Portland, Oregon, June 2012

Review by Larry Toering

Steve Wilkinson, formerly of Gravelpit has a new band called “Wilkinson Blades,” and they hit the Secret Society Ballroom in Portland for their CD release party for their new release titled 4:00 AM on Shiftone Records. A review of that disc can be found in the current issue of MSJ, and I couldn't believe how well they performed it. First of all, spirits in the house were extremely high for this, and their crowd was a very pleasing one with which to mingle and enjoy this great show. The whole thing was a warm and fuzzy experience because of that and how well they brought these songs to the stage. They came on like it was nothing and blazed through the set with pure ease and finesse,  enjoying themselves every minute of the way. The crowd in turn enjoyed them all the same. The room was completely full of every walk of Portland life.

All kinds of great music and vibes filled the room from front to back. This is the kind of show that stays in your head and never leaves, as this band are that special to a relatively newbie of the Americana genre. The music isn't just restricted to one thing. It's a blend of rock, country, folk, bluegrass and a little pop as well, but in the case of Blades, there is also a healthy shot of psychedelic styling and romantic inflections that make them a unique variety of this genre that has been stirring this soul daily since I first heard them. I'm not often so easily swayed into much anything that is very country minded, but this band does it all so very well that they don't ever get stuck to one thing. Everything about this act is accessible and full of heart, soul, peace and love which cannot be denied.


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The players he brought to the stage are all on the record and they play like they've been together for decades. The chemistry was magical as they stormed through what mostly followed the album track order from what I recall. One of the highlights for me certainly was when the banjo player known as “Professor Gall,” got to do his part in the track “Scared Of You,” which is this haunting little number Wilkinson sings with a radio mic effect. While he's crooning away, the banjo is picking, Gall also uses what is known as a “stomp box” for an even spookier effect. He wears bells on his boots and they make a slap back sound through the box that is rather wild. In fact it's so cool I've gone out of my way to bring it to the attention of many who have a taste for Americana, including recommendations on the Internet.


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There was a lot of media in the place, a big label banner at the merchandise table, and the staff at SSB were all fabulous as well. What a great show they put on, which featured Rich Lander on keyboards and Grant Clumpston on guitar and vocals. Clumpston mostly uses a Gibson SG that makes all the difference on their sound and helps the psychedelic factors shine like diamonds. John Huckfeldt on bass and Jonathon Beyer on drums round out the stage line-up. These guys are all on the CD with the exception of John Huckfeldt. They're all first class musicians who clearly have a jubilant time performing together. If you like the sort of music that captures an array of sounds, this is the band to light the fire under your tail to see some of it live. They're out gigging to support the new release, and they do it in style, with no worries or pressure to spoil the good vibes they spread in the process. And that is just good honest entertainment.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2012  Volume 4 at lulu.com/strangesound.
 
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