“And I don’t know how I got this far down with the ceiling,” cries Taylor Burns, one of five vocalists for The Wild Feathers, on their first single, The Ceiling. However, with each opening set for Bob Dylan, Willie Nelson and Ryan Bingham, respectively, that ceiling–a retractable roof–opens wider to reveal the sky-high limit for the Nashville ensemble. The band signed with Warner Brothers to ring in the new year, and their self-titled debut is slated for summer release.
The vast majority of The Ceiling moves like an old jalopy with a Ford F-150 engine dropped in. But, around the three and a half minute mark, the track downshifts with dexterity and ease. As the coda begins, the band coos “We should be easy” in unison until Joel King breaks free and puts his exclamation point on the verse. King’s Chris Robinson-esque bellows texturize the low hum of Burns and company. This hypnotic reverie, coupled with a swelling instrumental, marks the efflorescence of the six-plus minute jam session. The four words resound with clarity and sincerity that is stadium ready.
Backwoods Company has a rougher, darker tone. The lyrics chronicle the guilty pleasures of falling in with a bad crowd: “Smoking pistol burned my hand / in the backwoods they understand.” By way of bluesy guitar riffs a la the latest Black Keys album, a wailing harmonica, and thundering drums, the instrumental careens through a darkened forest at a breakneck pace. Like a professional stock-car team, the band becomes captivating when side by side at dangerous speeds.
The Wild Feathers may seem made possible by the recent mainstream tendency toward knee-slapping amalgams of country, blues, folk, and rock, but the band has its own distinctive southern flavor, born of traditional rock influences like The Band, Tom Petty, and The Allman Brothers along with deep Texas roots. (Four of the five band members hail from the Lone Star State. And, incidentally, four of the five members were lead singers in their own bands before joining T.W.F.) Freewheeling collaboration is not only what defines The Wild Feathers, it’s what set them apart. As a man who doesn’t typically listen to a great deal of country music, The Wild Feathers have passed my guard. How did they manage to do it? All five of them charged me at once.