Music, Official Fame Magazine, Pop Culture

Steven Wilson’s Wilson Banjo Co. Releases New Music

Steven Wilson’s Wilson Banjo Co. serves a dual purpose. It’s a business selling and promoting Wilson’s line of custom-made banjos while enjoying a vibrant second life as a fully realized musical unit. His continuing collaboration with singer Sarah Logan has produced three albums that do an excellent job of balancing the past with the present. Wilson Banjo Co.’s new collection Memory Lane highlights ten uniformly strong tracks exploring traditional bluegrass textures and invoking the spirit of Americana with a reflective confidence radiating through each album cut. It’s a high point of a musical journey that shows no signs of slowing down.


In the hands of some, the genre feels and sounds studied rather than lived. Wilson Banjo Co. displays a natural fluency with these songs that comes across as effortless as breathing. The first track, “Sadie Danced a Hole in Her Stocking” is an ideal example. Sarah Logan inhabits this song with the same convincing vocals we experience when hearing any of the genre’s founders rather than sounding like an early 21st-century imitator. The musicians show off their skills, yes, but never in an ostentatious manner. Everything serves the song.

The relatability of the material plays a pivotal role in the album’s success. Look no further than the second song, “Tomorrow’s Coming Fast” for evidence. Anyone vaguely aware of time’s unstoppable march through individual lives will feel the pain and chagrin at the heart of this song. Wilson and company express those emotions entertainingly, and the musicianship reaches the same high levels. “Holler” is the album’s second single. It’s a moody atmospheric bluegrass piece made further vivid with one of Logan’s best vocal performances. The easy-going lyricism of the song’s words and musical arrangement should translate into a live setting with minimal effort.

“Nightbird” is another moodily evocative piece. The tempered dramatic touch that Wilson and his cohorts can bring to tracks such as this moves bluegrass forward as a genre rather than relying on time-tested templates. Interplay is a crucial component of what drives bluegrass ensemble playing, and Wilson shares a rare telepathy with his fellow accompanists that help lift “Nightbird” to exquisite heights. “The Gavel” is another of Memory Lane’s finest narrative songs. It doesn’t offer step-by-step storytelling, but it’s told in a far more episodic way, This debut single from the new release affords newcomers and existing fans a chance to delve into the defining elements that make Wilson Banjo Co.’s music so memorable.

“Our Last Goodbye/Walk Softly on This Heart of Mine” ventures into stalwart territory. Unifying these two compositions into a greater whole is a minor musical masterstroke. Wilson and Logan revisit Bill Monroe’s classic “Walk Softly” with a reverential spirit but emblazon their individuality across the cut in subtle ways. Subtlety, tastefulness, melody, and a willingness to explore structure are among the chief strengths defining Wilson Banjo Co.’s art and should continue fueling their creative fire for years to come. Hardcore bluegrass fans and casual admirers will find much to love on this release.

Troy Johnstone

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