The Wooks Return To Louisville With The Lil Smokies At Zanzabar
Kentucky is known as the bluegrass state. Some days, I’m not sure if it’s due to all the beautiful horse farms or the fact that bluegrass music was born here. At any rate, we’re going with the latter for this article. One of the finest bluegrass bands around is based right here in Bourbon County, which is also where Capture Kentucky happens to call home. That may be a force that would cause many to be biased towards an artist. A little hometown love. That isn’t who we are here at Capture Kentucky. We promise you that we will never just put our name on something that we don’t believe in. If we write about anything, it will be sincere and honest. We also promise that we will never be negative towards an art form or artist. We don’t have time for negativity. If we don’t like something, we don’t write about it or at the very least, we will find something positive to include. But I digress, the purpose of this article is to share our thoughts on the recent transitions that have taken place within The Wooks and how they’ve shaped the live show.
Late last year, Arthur Hancock had to take a break from playing banjo, so he slid over to play a second acoustic guitar. Galen Green played the mandolin and departed the band as he decided to better himself by attending business school. Then, the heaviest blow, Fiddler Jesse Wells took the job with Tyler Childers. Playing fiddle and electric guitar for Tyler. I am one of the biggest Jesse Wells fans you’ll find. The man is literally a music professor, so as you can imagine he’s super talented. When Jesse left, I was worried. Very worried that with so many shifting dynamics the quality of music would be lacking in comparison to their strong debut, ‘Little Circles’.
My worry was lessened quite a bit after seeing the new lineup just before New Years at Cosmic Charlie’s in Lexington. You can read that article here. The addition of Aaron Bibelhauser to the lineup was a tremendous move. One that likely saved the band. On Saturday, I witnessed something that I never thought I’d type. The Wooks sounded better than they ever have. There is definitely a different dynamic without Jesse, but I was assured by guitarist CJ Cain that they are auditioning people for a long-term fix. In my opinion, if they find a fiddle player that’s just an average talent, coupled with the vocal, banjo, dobro and even piano skills that Aaron brings to the band, they’ll be unstoppable.
There were several examples of where the band is headed on Saturday. None more impressive than their version of a classic song, that no one really knows who actually wrote, “Darling Corey”. That song has evolved over the years, but at its core, it’s a murder ballad about a Moonshiner. Aaron took the lead vocals for this one and if I’m honest, this is the moment that I realized that I could type what I mentioned that I never thought I would. The Wooks sound better than they ever have. Aaron adds a higher pitch and strong voice that cuts through the instrumentation, especially singing harmonies.
The guys also covered a Tyler Childers song called, “Messed Up Kid”. It’s an older song from Tyler that has never been released. CJ took the lead vocals for this one and when they hit those four-part harmonies in the chorus, I temporarily lost my mind. In fact, I’m singing the chorus in my head as I write this. “She’s dancing around the room, in her cheetah print body suit.” Lol For a moment, I felt like The Wooks just laid claim to a Tyler Childers song, because they OWNED it. If you’re a fan of Mr. Childers, that should tell you all you need to know. Every hair on my body stood up and I was covered in chills from head to toe. That may sound like some hype, but my body and brain just work differently than most. Those moments are the reason that so many of our readers trust my opinion.
I’m certainly not trying to brag here or “toot my own horn”, but I have had a very successful run of being able to identify talent. Look no further than the series of articles that I created at my old site, Unsung Melody. I often wrote about or interviewed artists that I felt had a bright future. Let me give you a short list of artists that were a part of the Unsung Artists series that have went on to signing a record deal. Kentucky’s Otis, England’s Maker, Whiskey Myers, SIMO, Jared James Nichols, Monster Truck, Otherwise. My past successes are also what inspired me to create and develop our upcoming music showcase series. Soon, I won’t only be talking about great music and artists, but I’ll be able to introduce you to them from the stage. I only tell you all of that so you can understand the significance of me trusting my “ear and gut” with The Wooks though. These guys are the real deal and that’s a promise.
Now I mentioned the vocals of Aaron and CJ, but there’s a couple more voices that I have to talk about. Shoot, there are even shirts made up for this next guy. The shirts say, “Let Roddy Sing!” and there’s a damn good reason for that. Roddy Puckett is the bassist in the band. He plays a big ole traditional stand-up bass. I paid a lot of attention to how Roddy played on Saturday, he was adding beautiful runs and accents all over the place, especially during the Beatles classic “Dear Prudence”. But, it was when he took the lead on vocals that I was captivated and so was everyone else in attendance. Roddy absolutely KILLED it. The Wooks also turned the song into an extended jam session which blew my mind even further. The lovely Jenni Lynn Gardner (From Della Mae) got an impressive solo in this one as well, and it was quite simply the cherry on top. She was spot-on all night too, by the way. I can not wipe the smile off my face as I write this and I’m playing back the audio that I captured on my phone. It’s something you just have to witness for yourself.
Other highlights included “White Lines And Neon Signs”, “Country Girl” and of course their newest single, “Me And The Stars”. In my opinion, “Me And The Stars” is the perfect song to not only introduce Aaron to everyone, but to establish that these guys and their talent aren’t going away any time soon. It’s always a pleasure to see these guys live. There’s a certain warmth to the vocals when Arthur takes over, especially during their cover of the Robert Earl Keen classic “The Party Never Ends”, but when you have four voices as distinct as those in this band, you can impress just about anyone in attendance.
The Wooks – “Me And The Stars” (Official Music Video):
Keep up with The Wooks here.
The Lil Smokies were the headliners that night. I can’t write much about those guys, as we had to leave after just a couple of songs, but from what I did see and hear, those guys are great in their own right. I’m sure I’ll catch them again sooner or later.