…Bill Wilson’s three eldest sons grew up listening to him fingerpick old country tunes around the house. They learned to sing harmony at family holidays and inherited old guitars with their hand-me-down jeans. The past two decades sent James, Sam and Abe in disparate musical directions: teenage heavy metal fests, old-time barn dances, college bars and New York City jazz clubs. But in 2005 the brothers all returned – one from a cattle ranch in Nevada, one from an apartment in Brooklyn, one from Grad school in Maryland – and for the first time in their lives they began to make music together. With the addition of long-time friends Seth Green and Brian Caputo, Bill’s sons became Sons of Bill.
I didn’t want to like this album. The back story of three brothers who grew up listening to their old man pick the guitar, grew up, moved apart, and one day got back together to make music was honestly cheesy no matter how honest the story is. It didn’t take long for The Sons of Bill to win me over. One Town Away won’t make my album of the year list but there are some gems that shouldn’t be passed up. Musically this is a pretty standard country and western album but then the lyrics come in and that’s where the strengths of this album really lay.
It took a couple of listens to really catch my attention, mostly because I am listening while I work, but the first track on the CD really sets the tone for the album. Titled Joey’s Arm punches right into the small town feeling that runs through the album with a modern day perspective: “The dirt underneath the methadone and concrete has got to be more than dust and bones, ‘Cause the south ain’t gonna rise again but we’re holdin’ out for Jesus or so they say on AM radio”. Skip ahead to the title cut One Town Away and you can really see the strength in the Wilson brothers’ writing. While James wrote most the songs on the album there are tracks from both Abe and Sam as well.
This album feels a little more like a first album than a sophomore effort but it’s worth picking up if you like clean country music with lyrics that are little outside Nashville’s idea of what sounds good. The band is on tour now and coming through Texas with some of my favorite artists and even have a show with 9b favorite Jason Isbell in VA. I have a feeling that they won’t disappoint live and plan to catch them when they come through here.