J.D. Wilkes: Fire Dream (Big Legal Mess Records)

Reviewed by Harry Kaplan
This is some seriously swinging music. This album is a little Tom Waits, B horror movie, Vaudeville, and some Benny Goodman style clarinet sprinkled in for good measure. Fire Dream is a little bit dark and a little bit treacherous. Enter if you dare and if you do, the reward is a super exhilarating good time. Even though this collection tends to lean on the Gothic side of things, there is still plenty of happiness and beauty. Some of the songs are upbeat and downright infectious.
You may recognize J.D. Wilkes’ name because he is a founding and current member of the Legendary Shack Shakers. While the Shack Shakers’ music is very uptempo, Wilkes’ solo work is considerably less frenetic and more along the lines of a standards singer. Even though the pace of the solo numbers are slower, that does not diminish any of the energy. It just harnesses itself differently. This flame burns slow and steady and stays ignited for hours.
If there is a song on here that I would pick as the front runner, I would have to give that esteemed honor to Walk Between The Raindrops (Track 6). This song has a very Spanish/Latin flare that is truly impressive. J.D. really shows off his vocal range and strong singing voice in this very hip number.  I challenge anyone to listen to this number sitting still. No foot tapping, no movement at all. It is impossible. 
Bible, Candle And A Skull (Track 8) is pure film noir. I can only envision this song in black and white. The emotion this song evokes is one of apprehension. This song brilliantly tells the tale of evil lurking around the corner. The instrumentation is an absolutely prefect blend of piano and clarinet that is fused with a very powerful, yet understated electric guitar. This is a smoke filled barroom, with some serious shenanigans going down.  
As I stated earlier, trying to listen to this album while staying still is virtually impossible. I’ll bet anyone $100 that he/she will not be able to sit through Moonbottle (Track 3) without doing at least a small dance. This song could be used as a track for a tango. The backing instrumentation paints a picture that has a million colors and at least that many moving parts. The Flamenca style guitar playing just adds such a wonderful element. 
I could go on and write about the other seven songs on Fire Dream, but there really is no need. What was written about those three songs apply to the other seven on this collection. Every song on this album is deserving of praise. But more importantly, every song begs to be listened to again and again. 
Listen and Buy Fire Dream
Link to J.D. Wilkes’ website

 

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