The Wilders Throw Down

With their first release on Free Dirt (an ironic move away from a label called Rural Grit), the Wilders bring their brand of hillbilly string banding from Kansas City to this wonderfully produced disc. These are folks with some serious chops — fiddler Betse Ellis, string bassist Nate Gawron, banjo-and-such player Phil Wade, and lead vocalist Ike Sheldon — tear through the tunes with a ferocity that leaves you spun about and breathless whether they are particularly fast or not. "Jenny on the Railroad” brings the strings full forward — traditional fiddle joined by cross-tuned — and blazes lines in the road. Instrumental "Squirrel Hunters” may not be the fastest song on the album but it shows off fiddler Betse Ellis’s chops at their sweetest and most controlled, spinning up and down and back and forth through this cyclic tune. "Belshazzar” takes the tale from The Book Of Daniel and makes it into a folksy celebration about the downfall of the haughty that rocks out. The bonus tracks are even more superfluous than bonus tracks tend to be: two live recordings that are every bit as good as the studio, and almost exactly the same. There is such a vibrant quality to their studio work that you don’t gain much with the slightly more live performances. But more is better than less — this is a disc that lights fires from the sheer friction of horsehair on catgut, a musical maelstrom of old-time-y goodness.

(Free Dirt, www.freedirtrecords.com) (Free Dirt)