Review: Wilson Banjo Co. – Memory Lane

by Mark Hudson

First things first; yes, Wilson Banjo Co. makes banjos. And yes, it’s also a band 🙂
So to introduce some history: The Guardian (2015) was a 5 song EP released to showcase the banjo of the same name. This was so well received that it led to the release of Spirit In The Hills (2017), Six Degrees Of Separation (2021) and the new Memory Lane. To be clear, while all these releases feature the company’s banjo(s), they are NOT banjo “demo” releases. The songs are well selected and the real stars of each release, and like any good bluegrass band the members are all equals (of the highest order!).

While it’s not the first song on the album, “The Gavel” is the first single from Wilson Banjo Co’s Memory Lane. It’s a fitting introduction to an album that’s full of traditional bluegrass themes but one that also keeps turning those themes on their head. The twists and turns are going to surprise you, so hang on tight for the ride! In “The Gavel” prison is the one way out of a bad marriage – for a woman – without explaining exactly how things got there but extolling the benefits of not having to cook and clean!

This one is followed by “Coalmine”, and I just can’t let the cat out of the bag on this one, let’s just say you’re not going to see the twist in this one coming, and if it doesn’t leave you with a big grin, well, there just isn’t any hope for you! (Really, give it a listen!)

Back to the start of Memory Lane: The album opens with “Sadie Danced a Hole In Her Stocking”, which is just as traditional as the name might imply, but contrasts Saturday night with Sunday morning… with a grin… I *warned* you about the twists… 😉

“Tomorrow Is Coming Fast” showcases how modern bluegrass can be, a good dose of tradition mixed with a healthy dose of newgrass.

“Holler” is an eerie call back to the mountains, half homesickness, half reminiscing, highlighted by Sarah Logan’s vocals.

“Walk Softly On This Heart Of Mine/Our Last Goodbye” is their fitting homage to the traditions of Carter Stanley and Bill Monroe.

And “Come To Me” takes the album out with a beautiful gospel ballad.

There’s more great songs to be had in between those mentioned, but these should give you a solid idea of the strength of the album.

The band members are Steve Wilson (banjo), Sarah Logan (vocals and fiddle), Glen Crain (resonator guitar), Jamie Carter (bass), Adam Plott (percussion), Clay Hess (guitar), Tony Wray (guitar, bass), Josh Raines (guitar, vocals), Heather Mabe (guitar), Joseph Welborn (guitar), Milom Williams (mandolin, vocals), Jason Fraley (mandolin), Deanie Richardson (fiddle), Melanie Wilson and Colton Rudd (harmony).

As a non-musician I’m simply amazed that these musicians can step in and out of each song so seamlessly. I guess that defines great musicians, especially when my ears hear them all as one band!

So, while all the band members are equals, I do have my own bias and have to say that they have something special in Sarah’s vocals; she can take you from moonshine and woodsmoke up in the hollers, to a rowdy bar on Saturday night, and then to church on Sunday, and feel at home in all of them…

If you haven’t heard Wilson Banjo Co then it’s time to add Memory Lane (and all the rest of the releases!) to your playlist!

Mark Hudson

Mark Hudson is a long time local HVBA member and music lover who, unfortunately, had to move away. He misses the local scene but will look for you at Greyfox!

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