Wilkinson Blades Don’t Just Shave Your Face

…It’s the name of a quite-alright band, too, actually.

Wilkinson Blades hails from Portland, Oregon, USA. And it turns out they’re not named after the shaving brand, as wholesomely comical as that would be. Led by lead vocalist and primary songwriter Steve Wilkinson  – yeaahhhh! See, now it makes sense, as he leads the Blades (one wonders if, from a UK point of view, he’ll play for the football club Sheffield United FC, also known as The Blades). Kinda dorky maybe, but the feel-good rock ‘n’ blues ‘n’ country music speaks for itself in crushing that dorky assumption (how dare you) and replacing it with a sound that feels established; wise, and very aware of classic influences. The WBs are also made up of Johnny Huck on bass, Jon Beyers on drums, Grant Cumpston on guitar and backing vocals, and Rich Lander on keyboards, mandolin, and backing vocals.

Photo by Kirsten Fussell

This month will see the release of their debut album 4:00AM on Texas label Shiftone records. ‘No Exit’ is a true rock song full of authenticity, unabashedly soulful, but perfect for escaping to the road with. Coincidentally, Wilkinson actually wrote the song while on the road with previous Oregon band, Gravelpit, during a Rocky Mountain region tour. The strength of the song’s country twang isn’t misplaced, and rather, shares the send of homeliness that exudes from the minimal beauty of the lyrics: “Destiny is here/The fortune that it brings/I can shout a mile.”

While I really wanted to hold back on the Dandys comparison by sin of locative-laziness, I couldn’t help but think of their song Good Morning. It’s kind of like saying Elbow’s latest reminded me, in shades, of The Doves’ Melody Calls and Snowden. 

In talking about the staunchly country-ific song, ‘Someday’ , which is all banjos and toe-tapping, he enthuses. “The song is about acknowledging my own double standards and owning up to stuff ,” he says, “rather than blaming it on someone else.  Since this is somewhat of a new outlook, I decided to do it in a new style.”
Nonetheless, Wilkinson Blades’ whole album shows a well-rounded sound that pays homage to a rich musical past which doesn’t fail to acknowledge a hard-earned respect and standing in the state’s scene. You can tell that production was a particularly relaxed process – no anxiety or angst, or any expectation of overall sound. If there’s any angst, maybe it’s in the song ‘Wishing I’d Never Known You‘ – that familiar sound of letting go of regret. And yet the album has flow. For a solo effort backed by a band, there isn;t the feeling of a song having forced elements to accompany  the battling egos of a band, if you know what I mean.

Like a lot of songwriters I love, like Peter Broderick of Efterklang, Yann Tiersen and Levi Weaver, Steve Wilkinson played many of the instruments himself.

“I really wanted this to be a huge group project without the idea of a ‘band’ being behind it.  From writing, to arranging, to all of the instruments, backup vocals, production and engineering, this was exactly what I set out to do when I decided to make this record,” Wilkinson proudly proclaims.

A gorgeous set of dreamy, roots-affected analog rock with a twinge of country – especially the song No-One (download below) is truly American – but in that most wistful of senses. It emits a certain unadulterated cool and a patience, without the politics.

“I was busy with Mission 5 at the time, making records, writing, and playing lots of live shows,” comments Wilkinson, discussing why his debut solo record took longer than any of his previous records to make.  “All of the bands I have ever played with had a sense of urgency as far as schedules go and getting records out on time and on a tiny budget.  I wanted this record to be done on my time, without rushing and without worrying about deadlines.  Needless to say that with a five-year project I more than accomplished my goal by about four years.”
Guests include Wilkinson’s former Mission 5 band mate, and favorite guitarist, Grant Cumpston, drummer Rob Stroup, journeyman and multi-instrumental Rich Lander, Professor Gall’s Drew Norman, and Sean Flora.  The album also features co-writes by Rob Barteletti, Nick Peets, and Anthony Lambright.
“All of these people made a huge difference in how the record sounds.  I am really proud of the fact that I could pull together some of my favorite musicians in Portland and mash it together in an album that sounds like me, while at the same time showcases their contributions to the record.”
4:00AM comes out on October 30th in the USA.
Free mp3s:
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One response to “Wilkinson Blades Don’t Just Shave Your Face

  1. He’s played in countless Northwest favorites, including being a founding member and original drummer of Thrillbilly, fronting the guitar-rock act Gravel Pit, and his last band, Mission 5, who gathered several West Coast and European tours under their belts.

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