Sons Of Bill from Charlottesville, Virginia made a bit of a splash back in 2012 with their third release, Sirens. Produced by Cracker’s David Lowery it showed the band growing into their skin as worthy successors to the likes of Son Volt and the Drive By Truckers. In the midst of recording the follow-up, this time produced by Ken Coomer (Uncle Tupelo, Wilco) they’re taking a break to swing through a lengthy European tour which includes several UK dates including two in Scotland where they will be supported by their new Blue Rose label mates, our very own Wynntown Marshals.
Obviously it’s useful to have some new product on hand when you’re sloshing through six countries (Germany, Austria, the Netherlands, Belgium, England, and Scotland!, five if you’re a no voter!) so the Sons and Blue Rose have delivered a seven song E.P. to accompany the tour. Only available via the Blue Rose website or at their gigs The Gears EP offers a sneak preview of three songs from the forthcoming album (to be called Love & Logic) along with acoustic versions of two songs from Sirens and two live cuts.
Of the three new songs Brand New Paradigm finds the band swerving from the sound of Sirens with the vocal harmonies more polished and a mild nod to classic Mercury Rev. It’s a sumptuous confection of sound with chiming guitars and soaring vocals. Road To Canaan is primarily acoustic with finger picked guitar and a female singer duetting with James Wilson. Mallets softly propel the song with occasional percussive flurries adding dramatic effect while atmospheric guitar gimmickry evokes the wintry road from Nebraska, a beautiful song. Bad Dancer however rips it up in fine fashion as the guitars slash and burn and Wilson celebrates the cool kids who hang apart, who don’t dance but know what’s hip as they slouch in corners at parties.
The acoustic version (with steel guitar) of Santa Anna Winds (the opening song from Sirens) strips away the rock trappings and allows the song’s nihilism to ring clear and is much improved for that while Radio Can’t Rewind is another stripped down version of a song from Sirens which in this version is a heart-warming Dobro infused doldrum and again it unveils a greater heart than the previously issued version. As for the live cuts, Turn It Up was the centrepiece of Sirens and here it translates into a fine example of turbo charged country rock with guitars centre stage while the cover of Neil Young’s Unknown Legend adds a bit of fire in the engine room compared to Shakey’s version.
The EP is a great introduction to the band and it might be prudent if you wish to see them (and given the likelihood that Marshalls fans will pack the venues) to book tickets now. Sons of Bill and The Wynntown Marshals appear at Stereo, Glasgow on Sunday 9th March and then the Voodoo Rooms in Edinburgh on Monday 10th March. The other dates are on their website . If you need any further evidence of the live power of Sons of Bill there’s a free download only live album available here.