Monk Wilson

Hillbillys & Gypsys

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Hillbillys and Gypsys and Monks, oh my! Monk Wilson seems perhaps equal parts of each. The hillbilly can be found in Wilson's goofy redneck voice and Ernest P. Worrell's appearance. The gypsy reveals itself in his inventive and dynamic folk arrangements and nomadic personal history. And the introspective philosophical underpinnings of his lyrics justify his nickname, Monk. This is an unusual collection of traits, and they result in a very distinctive and fresh sound. Wilson centers his songs around vibrant wordplay with an off-kilter sense of humor that obscures and lightens an underlying maverick everyman wisdom. Despite his good ole boy vernacular, Wilson's lyrics reveal a delight in the sheer rhythm and sound of language that is reminiscent of Paul Simon. Lines like "Bobby took up her tanktop on her tippy toes" and "skyscraper windows secretary suicide tippy tap typewriters to the rhythm of the working man's pride" ricochet throughout, wrapping life's darker realities in an almost recklessly cheerful whimsy and bouncing them off of carnivalesque bluegrass jams. As a singer, Wilson makes up for the serious shortcomings of his voice with the zany energy of his often half-spoken deliveries. He blends good-humored folksy charm with bouncing-off-the-walls weirdness -- Loudon Wainwright III meets Pee Wee Herman. It is only on the quieter songs ("I Hate Love Songs," "(Tongue of a) Dreamer's Kiss") that the vocal quirks begin to get in the way of his lovely songcraft. The arrangements are just as colorful as the lyrics and vocals, thanks in large part to the dynamic musicianship of co-producer Darrell Scott, who contributes guitars, banjo, bass drum, Hammond organ, bells, bongos, mandolin, dobro, harmonica, and tuba. All of these elements make for a most impressive fireball of a debut.

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