By David McIntyre
The Wooks, founded in 2014, say, “We're as at home playing a festival stage as we are in a barn in the heart of Kentucky’s horse country.” They backed up that claim by nabbing first place at the Rockygrass band competition last year.
It was a win that almost wasn’t, since the group came as a last-minute addition to the lineup. Mandolin player Galen Green decided to give Rockygrass a phone call for the umpteenth time asking if there were any cancellations in the band contest. “We all figured it would be the routine 'No,' but we tried to put as many wook vibes out there as we could, crossed out fingers, all that jazz…and to our surprise, there was a cancellation and we were in!”
Energetically honoring the sound of traditional bluegrass and mountain music, with threads of singer-songwriter rock, and jam band music woven throughout, these guys cover it all. The Wooks, CJ Cain (guitar), Galen Green (mandolin), Arthur Hancock (banjo), Roddy Puckett (bass) and Jesse Wells (fiddle), were born over some twenty years’ time somewhere between a high school snack bar, an Irish pub, the radio waves, and a festival jam. Inspired by legends and trailblazers alike, they cut their teeth on stages throughout the bluegrass region. The Wooks translate the sights and sounds of the people, hills, bars, roads, and creeks around them into songs that captivate. With both respect for their heritage and innovative originality, The Wooks are the natural evolution of a sound that has always been there.
“I love the Wooks. With one foot in Kentucky bluegrass and the other in a galaxy far, far away, they are post-modern grassers at heart, delivering song after song full of infectious energy, tremendous musicality and flat out joy”, says Alison Brown of Compass records, who produced the band’s debut CD “Little Circles.” They cut seven originals and three borrowed tracks that exemplify all the musical ground that the Wooks can cover. From Cain’s Flatt and Scruggs gone psychedelic opener “Calling all you Wookies,” and Hancock and Pluckett’s danceable “Wookie Foot Shuffle,” to the timely Charles Johnson anthem, “Sisters and Brothers,” The Wooks prove that modern acoustic music can be both a nod to the past and a joyful reflection of the present. Two tunes are neon-lit late night reflections on elusive and alluring love interests; Cain’s “Country Girl,” and his co-write with Hancock “Night Bird.” The album’s title track “Little Circles,” is Green’s philosophical lament on friendship and fleeting time, while his instrumental “Turtle in the Creek” paints a picture of a peaceful Kentucky day by a stream. Tales of life in the fast lane abound in the band’s cover of the Springsteen tune “Atlantic City,” as well as Cain’s “White Lines and Neon Signs,” and the Damon Black song “Jake Satterfield,” all touching on tales of wild men and the inevitable consequences of a life fully lived. Hancock’s “Out of Mine,” driven by Well’s fiddle licks, is a bad day internal pep talk disguised as a catchy toe tapper.
Full of tales of both city and country, friends lost and love chased, bourbon drunk and jigs danced, Little Circles is a true expression of life as the Wooks know it. Come see and hear this award-winning band at Oskar Blues in Lyons Friday, April 14, from 8:30 to 11:30 p.m.