I have no idea from whence the name comes, but the band are an all-female Belfast outfit at the vanguard of the bluegrass revival playing what they term chillbilly roots as they “turf out timeless songs from the bogs of Ireland to the bayous of Louisiana.” Save for a cover of Tom Watson’s Fire Below, guitarist Adele Ingram provides all the material, Sharon Morgan plays electric guitar and 5-string banjo, Louise Potter looks after the drums and percussion with Lyndsay Crothers on vocals, but, being their debut album, they also roped in past members to play a variety of instruments and take lead.
Thus on the opening number, the fast-slow tempo-shifting ‘Hands Pass In Time’, double bass, dobro and fiddle augment the instrumentation while the gentle jazzy finger-clicking strum of ‘See Me For You’ has Nina Armstrong taking over microphone duties and the banjo urgent ‘Don’t Speak Of The Devil’ features the trebly mountain music tones of Elaine McConaghie.
Arguably, the album’s centre piece is the shuffling ‘Diamonds On Gold’, the soft-voiced Ingram taking lead on the song that won them an invitation to perform at the 2012 IBMA World of Bluegrass Festival in Nashville, but there’s plenty of numbers challenging for the spotlight, not least the Appalachian-fired ‘The Devil Is A Woman’, which features no less than six lead and backing vocals and the Dr.John-referencing ‘Memories of New Orleans’ with Crothers’ gutsy vocals and Morgan’s banjo making a convincing case for them as Ireland’s answer to The Be Good Tanyas.
Elsewhere, the bluesy rolling ‘Black Magic Doll’, with Ingram on resonator and Cat Rice wailing the harmonica, the honky tonk meets vaudeville shades of ‘Got Me On My Knee’, a good-timing jug band-like ‘Banjo Blues’, country waltzer ‘Broken In Two’ and a mazurka stomping ‘Johnny Kicked The Bucket’ all conspire to make them of the most exciting new arrivals on the bluegrass scene, on both sides of the Atlantic, in years.
Artists’ website: www.wookalily.com