You Need to Listen to Wilder Maker's 'Zion,' an Americana Scorcher

The New York City band's new album is down home Americana music for the city streets. Stream it now.

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Jul 11 2018, 4:15pm

I once had a friendly debate with a peer, an individualist type who loves Merle Haggard, straight shooting, and driving long distances over the out-west neo-dust bowl. Said peer was talking about what he considered the most “American” movies and he was listing True Grit and the like. I countered that protagonists in My Dinner With Andre and Killer of Sheep were as worthy of being an American archetype as any high plains drifter. Non-gangster urbanites may not lend themselves easily to any mythology, but we can wave the flag as hysterically as the next cow poker.

New York City malcontents Wilder Maker probably don’t want to be called “Americana” but to my thinking “indie” is a cruel slur and anyway Wilder Maker isn’t the boss of me. Made up of a bunch anti-cowboys (long hairs, women, Jews) who have done time in the wildly under-appreciated Debo Band, Jolie Holland, and appreciated about right Baroness, Wilder Maker makes down home Americana music for the city streets and walk-ups that frame them. Wry lyrics, sung sweetly (by Katie Von Schleicher) and Zimmerman-esque raggedly (by band leader Gabriel Birnbaum), that are buoyed by CCR grit and lurch, with enough no-wave sax/Television guitar touches to make sure the band’ll get beat up when it gets past Cleveland.

Wilder Maker made their debut last year with a single on Saddle Creek, and now have a full-length, Zion, that’s an album of diminished-but-still-kicking hope. Zion is a collection of Rock and Roll songs for subway ridin’ and cryin’, kicking against the pricks when you’re not giving them the rent; living, if you can call it that, in the city. The press kit calls it scorching and now that there’s no money on the music industry field, why would they lie?

Country fans love Emmylou Harris but, despite what the books tell you, they never really gave a shit about Gram Parsons, and that’s fine. While it’s good that the canon has abondondoned a bit of it’s arbitrary snobbishness, let’s not pretend that unpopular is necessarily the enemy of good. So, extending the thought to alt-country or whatever we’re calling it in the year of our lord 2018, don’t expect Wilder Maker to make it huge on the Wilco revival circuit anytime soon. Too angry and too odd, more red-headed step-child than stranger, Wilder Maker will have to make it through this mean old world on their own. But like The Mekons performing Fear and Whiskey on an off night in Chicago, they’ll undoubtedly muddle through somehow. I’d end on an Urban Cowboy joke but I can never make it past the first twenty minutes. And I’ve made it all the way through the very excellent Zion about a dozen times!

Wilder Maker’s Zion is out on New York City’s finest, Northern Spy Records, on July 13. Buy it before the dusty old dust fucks you up.