King Wilkie to ride into Ann ArborWritten by Vicki L. Kroll | | email@example.com
“King Wilkie Presents: The Wilkie Family Singers” features Togo the cat on drums and Symbaline the parrot on vocals. OK, not really. The third disc by the band that won the 2004 International Bluegrass Music Association’s Emerging Artist of the Year Award features fictional family members and friends — and two pets — that live in a big house.
“I wanted to do something about a family, sort of musical people and their odd development together; it’s just more of the backsplash for the album,” said Reid Burgess, singer-songwriter and founding member of King Wilkie. “A lot of the songs thematically to me had this sense of a fantasy world, but, ultimately, [the concept] was to tie all of the songs together because the album has a lot of zigzagging stylistically.
“There’s a lot of different kinds of songs, and I didn’t know how they all made sense together, so that was a technique to try to string it together.”
Burgess has been stringing musicians together to keep the group going. King Wilkie’s 2004 debut, “Broke,” was bluegrass, but its 2007 follow-up, “Low Country Suite,” was more eclectic. The original members split for a variety of reasons.
Guests on the new disc include John McEuen of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Sam Parton of Be Good Tanyas and Robyn Hitchcock.
“[Our music is] still largely acoustic, more of a folk Americana meets almost like Vaudeville kind of stuff,” Burgess explained from his Brooklyn home during a phone interview.
Fear not, fans of the band named after bluegrass pioneer Bill Monroe’s horse. There’s still plenty of old-timey fiddles and banjos, with a touch of brass and whimsy.
“I’m not a real serious lyricist or anything,” Burgess said. “I like to sit at the piano or guitar and kind of just moan and groan into a tape recorder, and then little words, little lyrics come out of that.”
Burgess will bring King Wilkie — bassist Jay Foote, guitarist and pianist Steve Lewis, multi-instrumentalist Dennis Lichtman, and guitarist and banjoist Phill Saylor — to The Ark in Ann Arbor for an 8 p.m. show, Sept. 10. Tickets are $15. Doors open at 7:30 p.m. Casey Driessen and the Colorfools will open.