The Wilder Blue | Texas Review | Ralph Arvesen
The Wilder Blue performing during the Marble Falls Concert Series at the Johnson Park in Marble Falls, Texas on July 14, 2023, with Zane Williams, Paul Eason, Lyndon Hughes, Sean Rodriguez, and Andy Rogers. (Photo: Ralph Arvesen)

Sharp storytelling. Gripping and gorgeous five-part harmonies. Arrangements that can swing between fun, engaging, and lively one moment and stirring, booming, and chill-inducing the next. These are the essential elements that make up the sound of The Wilder Blue, the Texas five-piece who put their own spin on rock-influenced country with their eponymous sophomore album.

Recorded at Echo Lab Studios in Denton, Texas, the band self-produced The Wilder Blue with experienced engineer Matt Pence (Paul Cauthen, Shakey Graves). A true collaborative effort, The Wilder Blue is a genuine democracy where ideas, constructive criticism, and value is demanded by all parties.

Built around the keen storytelling voice of primary frontman Zane Williams, Paul Eason’s salient lead guitar, the imaginative tandem of drummer Lyndon Hughes and bassist Sean Rodriguez, and the striking, compelling mind of multi-instrumentalist Andy Rogers, The Wilder Blue are only beginning to scratch the surface of their potential.

Williams and Eason began toying with the idea of a new band in 2019 by seeking out a nimble set of collaborators. Knowing that they wanted to emphasize a rich vocal blend that could be replicated live, they soon enlisted Hughes and Rogers. When Rodriguez joined, it solidified the outfit as a cohesive unit.

“Having studio time paid for by our fan subscribers gave us the chance to relax and spread out a little,” explains Williams about the recording process for The Wilder Blue. Recording over the course of a few three-day sessions every few months allowed the band to experiment in the studio while avoiding harsh deadlines or the demand of cramming an album’s worth of material into a week’s worth of time. Often recorded to tape, a vibrant tapestry of sonic swirls emerged.

“What’s fun about tape is that it forces you to commit to a take,” adds Williams. “You don’t just record five million parts and go comb through them later.”

“The five of us were able to sit together this time around,” adds Rogers. “Since I was playing bass and other things last time around, I was having to think about a million different things. But for this, we all kind of felt like we were in our zone.”

In addition to implementing a lone studio for a cohesive sound, the months between studio sessions was an added luxury. This allowed songs and ideas to marinate and work themselves out over the course of band practices, soundchecks, and shows.

Standout single, “Feelin’ the Miles” is a prime example of a song shifting from one idea to another. What started out as a James Taylor-esque acoustic guitar stroll slowly but surely began to rise from the ashes of its former self.

“My original concept for that song was much more in the vein of ‘Okie Soldier’ or ’Birds of Youth,’” says Williams. “We all liked the song, but we didn’t need another like it so basically one day, I just came up with a totally different groove for it.”

What emerged was a loping bassline and savvy banjo that evoke the pastel glow of the 1980s where Miami Vice and Smoky & The Bandit intertwine for a heartworn highway midnight drive where all the miles, exit signs, and gas station coffee meld into one daunting long haul down a phantom road.

“‘Feelin’ the Miles’ was one of the first songs that felt like we were all able to filter everyone’s collectiveness into the final version,” says Rogers.

Much like in “Feelin’ the Miles”, a looming arc of redemption, growth, and inner harmony can be glimpsed throughout the album with the likes of the poignant “Wave Dancer,” the contemplative “The Kingsnake & The Rattler,” and the compelling “Shadows & Moonlight.”

“Part of life is figuring out and finding your way,” says Eason, who wrote and sings lead vocals on “Build Your Wings,” a cornerstone song of the album. “A few years ago, I got divorced and I had been speaking with my uncle about it. He actually said that line to me–’Sometimes you build your wings on the way down’--and I thought it was just perfect.”

Even while “Build Your Wings” finds Eason and company seeking out inner peace on the contemplative anthem, a kaleidoscope and cascade of spirited sonic punches and vibrant and vivid harmonies takes charge on this freefalling standout.

“Life has its ups and downs,” adds Williams. “I don’t want to write a song just about the ups. It’s hard for me to write just about the ups. And if you just write about the downs without some sort of redemption, it’s easy to get pretty dark and depressing.”

Throughout, Williams and company are able to add a sense of courage even when surrounded by turmoil and strife.

Songs like the rollicking “The Conversation” find the Wilder Blue leaning in on the soaring country twang of the Eagles and incorporating a vocal run interlude that calls back to ‘60s The Beatles and timeless bluegrass. On songs like “Wave Dancer” and album opener “Picket Fences”, all five musicians breathe life into tried and true five-part harmonies that are as mesmerizing as they come.

In addition to the powerful harmonies and sprawling sonic palette, Williams’ knack for five-minute vignettes is yet another pillar on which Wilder Blue can count. The Wilder Blue as an album wouldn’t be complete without taking advantage of the strong and able storytelling arcs of Williams.

“With all the tools that we have in our toolkit, I think there’s still a lot of ground to be covered,” says Williams. “We haven’t even delved into all of our tools just yet, but we definitely got to go further down the road with digging into the box for this record.”
Fan reviews:

The Wilder Blue never disappoints! Excellent musicians and beyond excellent vocals! The crowd was really engaged. I had a great time.

The Wilder Blue is one of the best bands out now. This concert was amazing and engaging. Five extremely talented musicians that come together with amazing harmonies, great songs and a wonderful time.

The Wilder Blue is by far my favorite live band. I will travel many hundreds of miles to see them live in concert. The show is constantly moving with witty commentary and inside jokes being shared by band members in between numbers. The group is a tight, five-piece band, and every one of the band members is a musician in his own right. Most of the band members play more than one instrument during the show. The five-part harmony is akin to that of The Eagles or Alabama, and the songwriting is beyond compare. If you get a chance, run, do not walk, to see The Wilder Blue.

Awesome band, my family and I really enjoyed the show tonight. Will be going every time they're in this area.

I have enjoyed each of the many The Wilder Blue shows I have attended. The group is composed of five incredible musical artists and vocalists. Each member of the group adds a different level of talent from vocals to instrumental ability. The songs they sing are mostly original and are very well-written. The few covers they sing are intended to spotlight the harmonies and the vocal abilities of various members of the group. The concert is always high energy without a single dull moment. Zane Williams may be the lead vocalist with Paul Eason as a close second, but Lyndon Hughes, a true vocalist in his own right, runs the show. I have never left a The Wilder Blue show that I did not wish I could see the entire thing again or that they would continue to sing and wow the audience.

Concert exceeded my expectations! The Wilder Blue is fantastic and their harmonies are unsurpassed!

They are such a wonderfully gifted group of guys. Love their music.

Highly recommend! They’re amazing!

Love love their music. The guys have a great chemistry and you hear it in their music. Can’t wait to see them live again!
The Wilder Blue was the main act at the Johnson Park with guest Carson VanGundy. They continue across the United States with the last stop at the The Kessler Theater in Dallas, Texas on October 21, 2023.

The Wilder Blue
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Photos by Ralph Arvesen
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