Roots music, and much more
By GREG HAYMES, Special to the Times Union
First published in print: Monday, October 5, 2009
ALBANY � King Wilkie started off as a young, six-piece traditional bluegrass band in Charlottesville, Va., in 2003, and they garnered the coveted International Bluegrass Music Association award as Best Emerging Artist in 2004. Soon, they were playing all of the big bluegrass festivals, even the Grand Ole Opry.
But with their sophomore album, 2007's "Low Country Suite," the music began to mutate, and on the heels of their recently released third album, "The Wilkie Family Singers," the bluegrass has nearly been completely jettisoned. In concert at the WAMC Performing Arts Studio on Saturday evening, King Wilkie still had roots music in their blood, but there was also so much more. There was the bouncy pop of "Goodbye Rose" (featuring a clarinet-harmonica duet), as well as "Dr. Art," which sounded like a a kind of ragtime, vaudevillian variation of something from They Might Be Giants songbook.
Burgess and Lewis both switched back and forth from acoustic guitar to grand piano, and Burgess also added some pretty nice mandolin playing to the mix. The key instrumentalist in the quintet was unquestionably Dennis Lichtman, who split his time between fiddle and clarinet. But it was Phillips Saylor on banjo and electric guitar who stole the show with his fractured frailing style and his aching, character-filled voice that shone brightest on the Gram Parsons-like country ballad, "Fireworks."