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Wilkinson Blades

4:00 AM

(Shiftone; US: 19 Jun 2012; UK: import)

On 4:00 AM, Wilkinson Blades deliver a rasping, sometimes rollicking take on rock ‘n roll and Americana. The band is at its best when it rips through tunes, as on the catchy roots-rocker “No One Alive” or the dusty shuffle of “Holding Me Down”. In those moments, the band is lean even as its sound ripples out, and the ringing swirl of guitars echoes the sweet smoke of frontman Steve Wilkinson’s voice. The problem with 4:00 AM is it sort of revels in its own mystery. Guitars tend to twang out in the same way over many songs, and in the middle of it Wilkinson’s voice can go from bittersweet growl to forced, almost melodramatic hush. It’s nice to hear him bleat out in the end of “Bug River Blues” because in other moments, as on their version of “Some Velvet Morning”, his breathy groan feels more prescriptive than natural. 4:00 AM has some good tunes, and sometimes sounds like a scuffed-up version of the Jayhawks, but it’s most convincing in its Americana heft when, well, it’s not trying so hard to convince us of its dusty credentials.

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Matthew Fiander is a music critic for PopMatters and Prefix Magazine. He also writes fiction and his work has appeared in The Yalobusha Review. He received his M.F.A. in Creative Writing from UNC-Greensboro and currently teaches writing and literature at High Point University in High Point, NC. You can follow him on Twitter at @mattfiander.


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