The Wilders - Someone's Got to Pay
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Someone's Got to Pay (Free Dirt, 2008)

The Wilders

Reviewed by Rick Bell

Murder ballads have carved the darkest corners of country music storytelling, but thanks to gonzo bluegrassers the Wilders, their full-fledged murder album has taken the quirky genre to a new level. Based on Wilders' multi-instrumentalist Phil Wade's experience as a juror on a 2005 murder trial, this is a riveting, intense 20-song tribunal laced with classic country, introspective ballads, fiery instrumentals and kick-ass bluegrass.

More than a concept album, this is a compelling narrative held in place by the five stages of "Sittin' on a Jury." Yet it's the Wilders' fevered playing and singing that breathes the emotion into each cut. Lead singer Ike Sheldon is part Ronnie Dunn and David Allen Coe with a little Webb Pierce to boot, and the quartet plays every note as if their lives hang in the balance.

"My Final Plea," shuffles straight out a sweaty '50s Tennessee honky tonk while the band powers through "Sorry I Let You Down" like an acoustic freight train. And the album concludes with a jangly, Beatles-esque "Goodbye (I've Seen It All)." The quirky ending works. The Wilders have taken the tragic tale of a man killing his ex-wife and spun it into one hell of an amazing record.

CDs by The Wilders

The Wilders, 2011 Someone's Got to Pay, 2008

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