King Wilkie, John Wesley's Band | SPACE | Folk & Country | Chicago Reader
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King Wilkie, John Wesley's Band 

When: Wed., Sept. 9, 8 p.m. 2009
Price: $14, $10 in advance
“Moon and Sun,” the opening track from The Wilkie Family Singers (Casa Nueva), harks back to King Wilkie’s bluegrass past with its clawhammer banjo and ragged fiddling, but the mellow folk pop of the next tune, “Goodbye Rose,” announces a major change. Multi-instrumentalist and sole constant member Reid Burgess moved from Nashville to New York after King Wilkie’s second album, 2007’s Low Country Suite, and though that record did show hints of melancholy folk rock, on the new disc the band is remade in both aesthetic and lineup. Recorded with a slew of high-powered guests that includes Peter Rowan, Robyn Hitchcock, and Abigail Washburn, The Wilkie Family Singers presents itself as a musical story about the fictional Wilkie family—there are illustrations of the characters in the liner notes and backstories on the band’s Web site—but a close reading of the lyrics isn’t necessary to appreciate its virtues. Though the album’s juggling of folk rock, soft rock, soul, and twang can be jarring at times (and I wish the music was a little toothier), Burgess proves it’s not always a bad idea for a bluegrass band to go off script. John Wesley’s Band opens. —Peter Margasak

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