Still Wilson's Old Testament was sung in the tongues of 20th Century platinum. Rock, Blues, Jazz, and a hundred other forms shone through the prism of the young guitarist’s creativity, illuminating a path to a sound wholly his own. It is the sound of Big Sky, Rocky Mountain cathedrals. It is the sound of Seattle waterfront bars in which Wilson refined his craft for 15 years. It is the sound of success earned in the raiments of a former self on the killing floor stages of Austin, Texas. It is the sound of the human heart outlasting the binary age. Above all, it is the sound of an artist in the high summer of his ability celebrating joy, confronting grief, and acknowledging the inspirations inherent in each.
His guitar work and musical literacy are a conduit by which generations born to artistic destitution might travel beyond pastiche. He is among the last stewards of ideals spun into existence at 33 ⅓ RPM. A fortune teller and an anachronism – vague on arrival, inevitable in retrospect, and beholden to neither chronology nor categorization. And like all fortune tellers, Wilson is a storyteller—a raconteur with a sonofabitch wit and an eagle’s eye for truth best framed in his own words:
"My work is the sound of my imagination; like an abstract portrait of my heart and mind that's never quite complete. It's the place I go to find a sense of calm in what is an increasingly chaotic world. You have to make the journey, do the work, to find the music. It's not journalism; it's not my pulpit. What it is, however, is a heart to heart conversation about the human condition. But, any box I'm asked to check when describing it is a reflection of someone else's need for definition, not mine."
Introduction by D. Solammen
THE ORIGINAL FLAME
Still Wilson's origin story begins - more or less - with a kid in southwestern Montana, the FM dial and a cheap borrowed guitar. All of this in place long before a working musician's grind; one which ultimately forged a highly respected, award-winning songwriter, vocalist and guitarist/multi-instrumentalist. Thousands of gigs in to his artistic career now, he continues to honor an ever-present spark of fascination with "guitars, song-craft and sound", stoking the original flame while delivering new recordings released on his own CUTS Music Group label.
Concerning himself with a certain aesthetic that is "inextricably tangled with a myriad of inspirations", Wilson is, by inclination, very resistant to pigeonholing his song-craft. Both his guitar playing and songwriting are equally informed by more than a passing familiarity with the cross-pollination of folk and rock, jazz, country and the melancholy hue of his Celtic roots. Then add the vivid lyricism and a command of his honeyed baritone voice to the mix. The combined result: a multifaceted artist balancing the tightly bottled energy of his guitar expertise with the nuanced warmth of a sincere storyteller.
"Societies are filled with labels that only seem to be a source of more entrenched segregation and polarization. I know how I feel about the work I create. I don't want to, or need to, tell anyone else how to experience it."
A CLOSE COMPANION
"My earliest musical memory is listening to the unscripted FM radio of the 70's. I imagined myself as one of those slick FM DJs. They seemed to have the inside scoop on all of the mysterious artists and records." It may seem an unlikely a place to discover the guitar and a passion for music: a rural childhood home surrounded by farm and ranch land, with the only skyscrapers being the Rocky Mountain ranges at the edges of a small Montana college town. However, for Wilson it may have been the ideal place to make those creative discoveries. "I had an incredible natural world as a playground. I also spent a fair amount of time alone when I wasn't in school; a single mom off to work, my friends busy, whatever. Music became a very close companion; the radio, a guitar I borrowed, indefinitely, from my sister and a modest, but fairly wide-ranging, record collection."
THE HAPPY ACCIDENT - the guitarist
Throughout his career Still Wilson has garnered critical praise as a writer of thoughtful and sophisticated song-craft, as well as, deserved attention as a first-rate guitarist. Blues Revue likened his guitar work to the "fearlessness of Jeff Beck."
He suggests that his singularly identifiable voice as a guitarist is basically a happy accident. "I guess when I was younger my own naivety and lack of interest in the note-for-note study of other guitarists just defaulted to developing my own thing; an accidental style. I never stop learning and evolving. If you really listen, you learn. Whether it's by digging in to great recordings or working with superb musicians on the bandstand, the music itself is a non-stop masterclass."
Additionally, as it so happens, the guitar is well suited as an emotive instrumental voice in the right hands. Yet, he's quick to point out that he doesn't compose strictly as a vehicle for his guitar playing.
"As an instrumentalist my tendency may be to think like a more conventional songwriter having spent so many years developing chops in that regard. I want a strong melody to be the focus whether it's written for the guitar, my voice or another instrument." Wilson refers to his voice as "a mainline to the heart and mind, to the spiritual." In reference to his approach to the guitar, he adds, "I'm thinking about what I play as if I'm singing. It's about connecting to a meaningful narrative. No one remembers how many hip notes I play, only what they feel when they hear it."
FINDING THE NARRATIVE - the tunesmith
Drawing from a genuinely deep well of musical influences Wilson will name songwriters, guitarists, vocalists and other varied instrumentalists from every corner of recorded music history whose work informs his approach to the craft. "I grew up fascinated by all kinds of musicians; not only guitarists." Though initially quick to mention his love of jazz, Wilson also includes a history of the 'heart on your sleeve' classic country songs, plaintive Irish ballads and many legendary tunesmiths - especially those 70's era songwriters and bands from his childhood when he tuned the FM dial. "Late at night, I could occasionally dial up FM stations that seemed to be from another planet. Songs are significant touchstones for my memories, my experiences, throughout my life."
It could be that his guitar and vocal skills overshadow mention-worthy talents as a word-smith. That noted, Wilson is an equally formidable lyricist. "I've never considered myself a poet or writer of any grand skill, but I have, out of necessity and curiosity, paid a great deal of attention to crafting lyrics." His writing is similarly diverse in that he is as fond of character portrayals as he is of more personal, inward looking lyricism. "The lyric has to meet a certain standard I set for myself, but if I wouldn't say it to you in person, it probably won't make it in to a song. I find it's just about honesty, a willingness to be a bit vulnerable. Or sometimes it's just for the joy built in to a good turn of phrase."
OLD GHOSTS and FOLLOWING TRUTH AND BEAUTY - to quote bill evans
For the past two-plus decades Still Wilson has earned a reputation as an award-winning singer-songwriter (albeit under a different nom de plume), touring and releasing several albums rich in musical diversity. But over time some links to the past can fade. "We grow, we change. Our perspective and focus sharpens. I found myself connected to an identity which had become a distant ghost for me personally. I decided to set aside an old paradigm and get moving forward. In this line of work, though, you grow in a somewhat public forum. That can be difficult to navigate. "
Wilson says it has taken many years, thousands of gigs and an artistic maturity to move forward on new ideas in a meaningful way. "It's a clean slate, no preconceptions. New projects come with some baseline anxiety as you prepare to unveil them. Making art is personal. It's internal work. At it's best, it's very honest. As Bill Evans profoundly advised: just follow truth and beauty and forget the rest. "
COUNTLESS STORIES GET IN TO THE MUSIC
"The point is to become a better musician and a better human being by getting closer to my own truth." Wilson suggests his music is, in equal measure, a view open to a vast landscape, as well as, a portal aiming inward, revealing more intimate subjects. "We all hear our own stories in the music we love. We also share a common struggle with the big questions and doubts. There's a joy and a melancholy churning in the flow of it all which can't, and shouldn't, be ignored. I continue to follow my imagination as my compass and as a means of making a connection. Living is not a one man show. Countless stories and experiences get in to the music."