[WINNER] Independent Music Award, Best Alt.Country Album, 2011 for “The Wilders” (Free Dirt, 2011)
In today’s new acoustic music scene, only one band delivers the urgency of rock-n-roll using the simple tools of American roots: The Wilders. Celebrating its 15-year anniversary in 2011, this internationally touring band receives critical acclaim throughout North America and Europe for its unpredictable, energizing live performances and award-winning studio recordings. The Wilders’ sound is defined by an insurgent rhythm, soulful musicality, close harmony, and an intangible chemistry forged from years of performing together.
Both on stage and in the recording studio, the Wilders stay true to the old-time and bluegrass traditions, and infuse them with the unique, often hair-raising energy that has become their namesake. Initially, the band cut its teeth on the classics of Americana and bluegrass, performing spirited resurrections of tunes from honky-tonk heroes like Hank Williams and Lefty Frizzell, Jimmie Rodgers, and Roy Acuff and the Skillet Lickers. Over time, The Wilders’ sound has expanded, embracing greater individual expression and originality, as the band members have grown and matured together.
The Wilders are made up of four fiery and wildly inventive musicians. Ike Sheldon handles lead vocals, guitar, and is the Master of Ceremonies; Betse Ellis exhilarates audiences with her bow-hair-destroying fiddle work; Nate Gawron simultaneously drives and grounds the group on bass; and Phil Wade adds the flavor by swapping between dobro, mandolin, and banjo. It’s not uncommon for a listener to mistakenly assume there’s a fifth member of the band on drums; The Wilders call this phenomenon the “Phantom Drummer,” a testament to the rhythmic energy and hard-driving beat of this four-piece string band.
The Wilders have played to audiences across the US and beyond, leaving delighted and exhausted crowds in their wake. In 2006, The Wilders were selected to perform at the Famous Spiegeltent at Edinburgh Fringe Festival, where they were honored with the Herald Angel Award; additionally, they’ve made appearances at Merlefest, Wintergrass, Rockygrass, and Telluride festivals. In the summer of 2002, the band was featured with singer/songwriter Iris DeMent on Garrison Keillor’s “Prairie Home Companion” and a few years later performed live at the Kennedy Center. Their radio and television appearances range from National Public Radio’s Weekend Morning Edition, to appearances on the PBS syndicated show “Song of the Mountains,” and music specials on BBC television.
Their soon-to-be-released eponymous album showcases the culmination of years of musical growth. The Wilders is a unique addition to the band’s catalog; it features surprisingly eclectic instrumentation as well as the group’s strongest writing to date. Each band member penned at least one track on this fittingly self-titled release, featuring a collection of deeply personal and profoundly heartfelt pop songs, rapid-fire Americana anthems, and “new-time/old-time” fiddle tracks that will be irresistible to devoted fans and admired by new ones. The album demonstrate the band’s amazing dexterity and penchant for story craft, ranging from the epic “Get Up Kid” to the classic honky-tonk track “She Says (I Say).”
The Wilders’ 2009 single Bull Shoals/God Made Me (a Little Crazy), was released by Takoma Park, MD-based Free Dirt Records as a limited edition 45 rpm, pressed with randomly mixed color vinyl. The A-side is Ellis’ original fiddle tune, “Bull Shoals”, and the B-side is a classic honky-tonk shuffle written by Sheldon, “God Made Me (a Little Crazy)”. In 2008, The Wilders broke new creative ground with real-life murder ballad concept album Someone’s Got to Pay, which was awarded Best Alt-Country Album of the Year at the 8th Annual Independent Music Awards. Their previous full-length albums released by Free Dirt Records are Throw Down (2005), a collection of traditional and original country songs and fiddle tunes produced by Dirk Powell; Spring a Leak (2003), a boisterous bluegrass and honky-tonk album; and On the Wings of a Dove (2001), a mixture of well-known and obscure gospel music.