Hi, there... This page is part of the Slipcue guide to various bluegrass artists, which is part of a much larger Hick Music website. This "guide" is not meant to be comprehensive or authoritative, just a quick look at a few records I've heard recently, as well as some old favorites. Comments or corrections are invited... and recommendations are always welcome!
This page covers the letter "W"
Stephen Wade "Banjo Diary: Lessons From Tradition" (Smithsonian Folkways, 2012)
The Wailin' Jennys "40 Days" (Red House, 2004)
The Wailin' Jennys "Firecracker" (Red House, 2006)
The Wailin' Jennys "Live At The Mauch Chunk Opera House" (Red House, 2009)
The Wailin' Jennys "Bright Morning Stars" (Red House, 2011)
Frank Wakefield & Red Allen "...And The Kentuckians" (Folkways, 1964)
Frank Wakefield & Country Cooking "Frank Wakefield & Country Cooking" (Rounder, 1972) (LP)
Frank Wakefield "Blues Stay Away From Me" (Asylum) (LP)
Frank Wakefield "...And The Good Old Boys" (Relix, 1992)
Frank Wakefield & The Good Old Boys "She's No Angel" (Relix, 1992)
Frank Wakefield & Red Allen "The Kitchen Tapes" (Acoustic Disc, 1994)
Frank Wakefield "Midnight On The Mandolin" (Patuxent, 2000)
Frank Wakefield "Don't Lie To Me" (Patuxent, 2003)
Frank Wakefield "That Was Now...This Is Then" (Rosewood, 2002)
Cliff Waldron & Bill Emerson "The Best Of Emerson & Waldron" (Rebel, 1997)
A retrospective of the East Coast duo of Emerson & Waldron which features, among other gems, their original grassed-up version of Manfred Mann's "Fox On The Run," a song that became a standard in the bluegrass canon. Fun stuff!
Cliff Waldron "Old Friends And Memories" (Rebel, 1997)
Cliff Waldron "The Best Of Cliff Waldron" (Rebel, 1999)
Early 1970s recordings from Waldron's original lineup of New Shades Of Grass... Great stuff!
Cliff Waldron "Seasons Past" (Rebel, 2000)
Cliff Waldron & Paul Williams "Higher Ground" (Rebel, 2001)
Like bluegrass gospel bandleader Paul Williams, Cliff Waldron abandoned the secular stage after he got religion, and later came back to the music, largely as a way to spread the holy word. This is a nice pairing, with a somewhat delicate brush-arbor feel to it. Williams tends to goose things up a bit with his band, and it does feel like he's holding back a bit here... Still, if you like truegrass gospel, this is another fine album from the Williams camp. Worth checking out.
Cliff Waldron & The New Shades Of Grass "A Little Ways Down The Road" (Rebel, 2002)
Veteran '70s newgrasser Cliff Waldron weighs in with another fun, good-natured album, featuring a fine pair of new tunes by songwriter Brant Miller, the humorous "Axe To Grind," and the sweetly sentimental "Favorite Time Of The Day." Plenty of older, more traditional material as well, and a few unexpected cover tunes, including Karla Bonoff's "Home" (!) and the Harlan Howard oldie, "She's Gone, Gone, Gone." Solid stuff by an old pro.
Cliff Waldron "New Direction" (NSG, 2006)
Bradley Walker "Highway Of Dreams" (Rounder, 2006)
(Produced by Carl Jackson)
The answer to your question is: yes, you should drop everything you're doing, go out, get this record, take it home and see what all the fuss is about. Put simply, this is one of the finest country/grass records of the decade, and Bradley Walker is a real find. On the very first track, I was reminded of his labelmate, Alecia Nugent, a country-drenched ballad singer who's hung her hat in the bluegrass world, but who could probably make the jump into Top 40 country without batting an eye. Walker has a similar vibe: he's more of a throwback to the older heartsongs tradition of the 1950s and '60s, a guy with a great voice and an outstanding sensitivity for the nuances of the style. Although many of the songs on this album could probably hit the charts if some hat act dude picked 'em up and pumped them up with a few power chords and rock riffs, Walker (thankfully) plays 'em nice and simple, and fans of great, sweet-toned honky-tonk singers such as Carl Smith, Gene Watson, Keith Whitley and Vince Gill will appreciate his mix of conviction and restraint. After a few songs, I cracked open the liner notes and sure enough, Alecia Nugent is there, singing harmony on several songs, as do Sonya Isaacs and Rhonda Vincent, with a slew of high-powered pickers in the mix. The venerable trad-country producer Carl Jackson helped sculpt the sound -- as he did on Nugent's first two albums -- crafting the same sweet mix of heartfelt country and stringband twang. A little light went off and I finally remembered the achingly beautiful duet Nugent sang with Walker on her last album, one of the most alluring gems on a glittering, gorgeous record. As I started to pour over the notes, I realized that Walker was also physically disabled, read a bit further and discovered he has muscular dystrophy, which makes his mastery of the genre that much more impressive. The most important thing, though, is the music, and this is the kind of stuff I love to hear... I'm looking forward to hearing lots more from this fella in the future!
Cory & Jarrod Walker "No Need For Words" (2006)
Cory & Jarrod Walker "New Branches" (2008)
(Produced by Phil Leadbetter)
Abigail Washburn "City Of Refuge" (Rounder, 2011)
(Produced by Tucker Martine)
It's kind of hard to get a handle on this one... Banjoist Abgail Washburn, formerly a member of the innovative old-timey band Uncle Earl, has made an abrupt departure from her twangy roots, with this densely-layered folk-fusion outing. The tone is more what I might characterize as Lilith Fair-ish introspective fare, rather than the "indie" pop that others have mentioned. Teh songs are sort of free-flowing and (to my ears) amorphous - as I say, I couldn't quite get a handle on it, and other than the traditional gospel numbers that close the album out, I would be hard-pressed to tell you what most of the songs were about. Although this didn't really grab me, I'm sure it will be like catnip for some folks - and Washburn is certainly to be applauded for trying something new and breaking out of her old patterns (even if those old patterns had resulted in several very fine records leading up to this one...) Certainly a change of pace... try it for yourself and see what you think.
Sara Watkins - see artist discography
Sean Watkins - see artist discography
Doc & Merle Watson - see artist discography
Eric Weissberg - see artist discography
Pete Wernick "Dr. Banjo Steps Out" (Flying Fish, 1978)
The first solo album by banjoist Pete Wernick (of the bands Country Cooking and Hot Rize) is a sweet, sleek affair, with a light touch given to several styles of bluegrass and standards. Not pure traditionalist, Wernick runs his banjo through some sonic processing, mirroring the sort of thing Leo Kottke would do on guitar. Far from being distracting, it's kind of fun, the high-tech flanging playing off the banjo's natural chromatic sound. Several fun, lovely instrumentals and some vocal numbers as well... All in all, a pretty cool record.
Pete Wernick "On A Roll" (Sugar Hill, 1993)
A career highpoint. Wernick's picking is nothing short of dazzling, his voice is stronger than on earlier albums, and the arrangements are very solid and concise. A traditional/old-timey album with a well-rounded, modern feel, and lots of pretty melodies. Highly recommended!
Pete Wernick's Live Five "I Tell You What" (Sugar Hill, 1996)
Wernick's mix of 'grass and dixieland jazz is clever, but whether it will stick to your ribs is a matter of personal preference. It's joyful music, but kind of goofy in some ways, and the effect varies from track to track -- banjo and xylophone do less for me than banjo and clarinet, for example. It's worth checking out, but might not qualify as a "keeper" for some bluegrass fans.
Pete Wernick's Live Five "Up All Night" (Niwot, 2002)
Pete Wernick & Joan Wernick "Windy Mountain" (Niwot, 2004)
Pete Wernick & Flexigrass "What The" (Niwot, 2007)
Corinne West "Bound For The Living" (Make Records, 2003)
Corinne West "Second Sight" (Make Records, 2007)
(Produced by Mike Marshall)
An intriguing mix of bluegrass and adult-alt/folk-pop sensibilities... Hailing from the San Francisco Bay Area, Corinne West has a tinge of Natalie Merchant and Kate Bush about her, and while her pop-folk mysticism dominates the second half of the album, the twangier stuff is pretty fun at the start, particularly for folks that are into 'grassy music with lyrics that stretch beyond the genre's traditional themes. She's certainly got a wealth of high-power talent backing her up: Darol Anger, Jerry Douglas, Tony Furtado, Mike Marshall and Tony Phillips are among the newgrass heavyweights on this album, making for some pretty compelling melodic passages. Although bluegrass traditionalists won't find much here to dig into, fans of Nickel Creek and its various spinoffs might really get into it... There's a freshness that might draw them in, and it's certainly not the same-old same-old, lyrically. Worth checking out!
Corinne West "The Promise" (Make Records, 2009)
Harry & Jeanie West "Country Bluegrass" (Fantasy Prestige, 2000)
A fine reissue of two albums from the '60s boom, with North Carolina native Jeanie West fronting a competent, mildly clattersome band through a nice set of traditional songs and old-timey oldies. Originally issued on LP as Roamin' The Blue Ridge and Country Music In Blue Grass Style, from 1960 or thereabouts. One album has Jeanie West singing unaccompanied, the other is a nice series of rough-cut duets with husband Harry West, music that, as the album title implies, hearkens back to the days when the dividing line between "country" and "old time" music was much more nebulous than it would later become. West's super-rural, unabashedly hillbilly delivery has hints of Molly O'Day's old Depression-era recordings, but also, in an interesting way, of the more contemporary sound of Jimmy Martin, who also melded the bluesiness of country with the propulsive acoustic style adopted by the bluegrass crowd. Country Gentlemen co-founder Bill Emerson contributes solid banjo picking on both albums, anchoring the band, and adding a muscular oompf that helps boost the energy level. The rugged vocals and primitive sound mix might not appeal to everyone, but I think this is an album well worth picking up, particularly for the West's ability to bring out the lyrics in each and every song. (By the way, the West's are still in the acoustic music business -- literally. Here's a link to their music store in North Carolina.)
Harry & Jeanie West "Smoky Mountain Ballads" (Perpetual, 2006)
Bluegrass Albums - More Letter "W"
Hick Music Index