Wookalily are a Belfast-based four piece that specialise in a particularly Old World take on Bluegrass. Accomplished musicians all, Sharon, Adele, Lyndsay and Louise have already secured various notches on their bow, including being the only non-US band to be invited to contribute a track on Dixie Hall’s Daughter’s of Bluegrass album, ‘Pickin’ Like a Girl’. They released an EP in 2011 and the interim has been spent building a fan base using the traditional method of getting out there and gigging relentlessly. All The Waiting While is the result.
Why ‘Old World’, apart from the obvious? Whilst the songs wouldn’t sound out of place at Telluride, they share a structural integrity and pop sensibility with the British folk-rock sound. Witness Diamonds and Gold, the song that brought them to Dixie Hall’s attention via the Nashville IBMA festival in 2012; take the fiddle away and you have a song that Teddy Thompson or Kate Walsh might have written, it’s soft shuffle and lilting melody a mainstream hit in waiting. This combination of wild, fast and furious picking and (probably) genetic disposition to a wider diaspora serves them and the album well, leavening the mad moments like opener Hands Pass in Time and Don’t Speak of The Devil with opportunities to breathe deep and smell the Appalachian (Belfast?) pine.
Memories of New Orleans darkens the skies for a while, Sharon’s 5-string banjo lending the voodoo lyric a necessary edgy minor key. Black Magic Doll adds resonator and harmonica to a walking blues bass line and a humorous lyric evoking images of those awful dolls that stare at you like they know what you’ve been up to (even when you haven’t) – Bluegrass and Chucky…
Fire Below is as raucous as its title, but the real killer here is Johnny Kicked the Bucket. If there’s not yet been a Cossack-Bluegrass crossover, I think Wookalily have just invented it, the quasi-Eastern European flavour perfect for the frenetic percussion, pumping bass and the fiddle, all of which drop away in a chorus that struggles to its end like a steam train up a hill. It’s a great arrangement, funny and delivered with not a little panache. The last forty seconds may have you donning a Cherkesska coat and fleece hat and low-stepping around the room. Coming after that, the beautiful Broken In Two is quite the relaxed come down, a lovely banjo melody allowing this ballad a delightful turn around the dance floor.
All the Waiting While is a really good album from a group unafraid to experiment with their chosen genre, unafraid to share the responsibilities around guest vocalists, unafraid to play and record for the fun of it. And it’s nicely timed for around Christmas too.
Review by: Paul Woodgate