THE WILDERS "Someone's Got to Pay" Free Dirt

A murder trial inspired the Wilders' five-part song cycle on their new concept album.
A murder trial inspired the Wilders' five-part song cycle on their new concept album. (By Paul Andrews)
  Enlarge Photo    
Friday, April 18, 2008

THE WILDERS"Someone's Got to Pay"Free Dirt

WHEN DOES A MURDER TRIAL become an alt-country album?

That's easy -- when one of the members of the band the Wilders serves on the jury. In 2005, mandolin, banjo and guitar player Phil Wade listened to testimony in the trial of a man accused of shooting his ex-wife outside an apartment complex, and he couldn't miss the echoes of the dozens of murder ballads he'd grown up singing. The trial inspired not a single song but a five-part song cycle tracing the story from crime to punishment.

That song cycle forms the spine of the Wilders' ambitious new album, "Someone's Got to Pay." Ike Sheldon sings Wade's barn-stomping summation of the prosecution's case and the mournful lament of the defense's rebuttal. Sheldon adds four solo piano instrumentals with such titles as "(Hey Mr. Judge)" and "(Raised Up My Right Hand)," while Betse Ellis leads the way through five fiddle tunes that reinforce the rural setting. Other songs about distraught, unstable lovers heighten the drama.

The 20-track concept album was co-produced by prominent Cajun musician Dirk Powell, who made sure the music never became too solemn or self-important. The songs crackle with the unpredictability of a divorced man, a bottle of whiskey and a loaded pistol.

-- Geoffrey Himes

Appearing Tuesday with Shortstack at Iota (703-522-8340,http://www.iotaclubandcafe.com). Show starts at 8:30.


© 2008 The Washington Post Company