Sons of Bill, The Kid Carsons
New Orleans-based harmony heavies the Kid Carsons started off the New Years Eve-Eve show at the Windjammer with the strength of six people playing fierce bluegrass and folk. Joined by Nashville's W.B. Givens and led by brother and sister Chad and Morgan D. Carson, they seamlessly blended three and four voices with piano, accordion, banjo, and harmonica, creating hard-hitting folk music.
By the time Charlottesville, Va.-based band Sons of Bill took the stage, I got a serious case of déjà vu. This was my fourth time seeing the boys at their favored venue in 18 months, so I decided to remove my eyes and try to watch the show with a newcomer's vision. It didn't entirely work, but it gave me renewed appreciation for the band.
Frontman James Wilson swaggered on stage, saying, "Y'all came out in the dead of winter to the beach, and we thank you for it." Keysman Abe Wilson took a turn singing early on and belted out a new song "Turn It Up, Turn It Down," which will be on their forthcoming album, Sirens. A newcomer would have noticed the intense energy of each member of the band, utterly focused on their singular tasks while building a powerful, driven sound together.
"Turn It Up, Turn It Down" ended with a flurry of instrumentation, with lead guitarist Sam Wilson's fingers screaming on top of the furious rhythm section of bassist Seth Green and drummer Todd Wellons. Green and Wellons were the key to the rest of the show, pushing the band all night until it could not go any harder. They made it impossible for newcomer's not to stomp their feet on fantastic instrumental sections of "Far Cry" and "Never Saw It Coming."
Not to be outdone, oldest brother Sam made his guitar talk with several extended intros, pulling the audience in before the band could explode forward. On "Rock 'n' Roll," James insisted, "Country songs don't end that way/And I don't sing rock 'n' roll," but while he may not sing rock 'n' roll, his band certainly played it on the most intense, straight-up rocker in their catalog. Green and Wellons again shined through for the sheer power of the rhythm.
While there are only three Wilson brothers in the band, the fourth, 23-year-old Luke Wilson, has just released his first batch of tunes: an EP entitled Carnival Rides. He joined his family on stage to sing and wail the harmonica on "Broken Bottles." His voice was softer than his brother's, and it floated beautifully above the music. This pretty quality was the opposite of his older brother's grit, but somehow even a newcomer could tell the two voices belonged to brothers.
The Carson siblings ran on stage to continue the family theme and sing harmony on the Steve Earle classic, "I Ain't Ever Satisfied." The show closed with three more songs from the Sons' upcoming record: "Siren Song," "Virginia Calling," and "Santa Ana Winds" — all of which demonstrated a new level of songwriting and musical power.
I knew eliminating my pro-Sons bias was impossible, but the mere attempt added to my already sky-high admiration for these guys, for whom musical doors seem to endlessly open.