Folk yeah, bring on the banjos!
When it comes to Grammy-nominated quartet Wood & Wire, go ahead and throw out all the expectations that might be created from the sounds by four pickers holding a collection of wood and wire, to be specific — holding an acoustic guitar, bass, banjo and mandolin.
The band’s last album, 2018’s “North of Despair” solidified their place in the Grammy world, receiving a nomination in the category of Best Bluegrass Album. Even though they were nominated in the bluegrass category, Wood & Wire’s sound derives from many outside diverse musical influences.
The Austin-based band is composed of Trevor Smith (banjo), Billy Bright (mandolin), Dom Fisher (bassist) and Tony Kamel (lead singer/guitar). They’ve come from all over to form Wood & Wire. Banjo player Trevor Smith spent some of his teen years in Tucson, Arizona playing in hardcore bands while also studying Bill Monroe and J.D Crowe. Mandolinist Billy Bright was raised in El Paso, Texas and grew a liking for punk rock, while Dom Fisher earned a jazz studies degree at Ithaca College in upstate New York. The second Texan in the group, Tony Kamel grew up the oldest of four in Houston, although he spent much of his time on the beach in Galveston.
On August 28th, Wood & Wire releases a nine-song collection sprung from the band’s punk, hardcore and jazz backgrounds. Filled with a whirlwind of songs and styles, there’s no doubt this awesome foursome is on the road for a second Grammy nomination with the upcoming “No Matter Where It Goes from Here,” their second release under Blue Corn Music. With Pat Manske co-producing and engineering, the album was recorded at The Zone, just outside of Austin in Dripping Springs.
The album is full of genius playing, engaging melodies and memorable lyrics. One of the standout hits is the opener “John,” a song about Kamel’s high school friend who didn’t abide by the life that was drawn out for him. With lyrics in the chorus like “Seekers, and searchers, and drifters like me/Let it roll, let it ride, let it be,” the tune is written for anyone who can relate when it comes to having a certain path laid out for them and taking the one less traveled.
“Home and the Banjo” stands out due to the captivating references and lyrics that played a part in plucking the album’s title. Bright references MP3s, Australian rockers, AC/DC and Crowe. The title derives from the lines: “No matter where it goes from here, you bet your bottom buck I’m gonna steer clear/They’re gonna build a phone right into your ear/No matter where it goes from here.”
Attention grabbers on the album also include the historical song “Spirit of ’94.” Written by band friend Geoff Union of Ragged Union, the song tells the story of the whiskey rebellion of 1794 in Western Pennsylvania. The catchy lyrics “You can follow me to Pittsburgh, follow me to jail/Your revenue men can follow me all the way to hell,” will surely get your boots tappin’ and head nodding. The song “My Hometown” is about Bright’s life and times in El Paso. Bright pays homage to his Texas roots with lyrics like “My hometown is steeped in funk/My hometown’s got the border punk junk.”
The instrumentals are the unsung heroes of the album. “Roadie’s Circles” (featuring American bluegrass icon Peter Rowans), starts with Rowan’s hearty yodel and then weaves traditional tempos with a touch of jazz and a Spanish guitar interlude. The melody begins with fast-playing solos that eventually slow down and mellow out, then speed back up again at the end. Written by Smith, the instrumental pays tribute to his late border collie, Roadie. Willie Nelson’s guitar solos were the inspiration behind the tune. The other instrumental on the album, “Clamp’s Chute,” pays tribute to legendary fiddler Vassar “Clamp” Clements. The name draws its inspiration from an unusual story about Vassar and a malfunctioning parachute.
From tracks telling stories about old high school friends, to the infamous whiskey rebellion of 1794 to even a beloved border collie named Roadie, and with bluegrass instrumentation melding with hard country songwriting, Woods & Wire’s signature sound is paving the way for Austin’s roots scene, busting out a new Texas sound.
Cover photo courtesy Wood & Wire
Leean Vargas is an Editorial Assistant at Texas Lifestyle Magazine and an honors graduate of Texas State University with a bachelor’s degree in Public Relations.