CL Premiere: J.D. Wilkes taps Squirrel Nut Zippers' Dr. Sick for "Wild Bill Jones" from forthcoming solo debut, Fire Dream

The Legendary Shack Shakers frontman plays Tampa's Skipper's Smokehouse on Feb. 23.

click to enlarge J.D. Wilkes, who plays Skipper's Smokehouse in Tampa, Florida on February 23, 2018. - Conqueroo
J.D. Wilkes, who plays Skipper's Smokehouse in Tampa, Florida on February 23, 2018.

After sharing "Walk Between the Raindrops" with the Bluegrass Situation, J.D. Wilkes is switching gears and re-inventing an old country-western standard for Creative Loafing Tampa.

"Wild Bill Jones" has been covered by many (including Alison Krauss & Union Station which did this great version), but this one is gonna sound a little different.

"This time it’s done using an archaic banjo tuning called “dead tuning” and some exemplary Cajun fiddling, provided by 'Dr. Sick' of the Squirrel Nut Zippers," Wilkes — who is most famous for his role in Legendary Shack Shakers — told CL. "Dr. Sick, man, he’s the most amazing musician I’ve ever had the privilege of playing with. I don’t even know what his real name is, but that guy is awesome.”

The album — set for release on February 16 via Big Legal Mess/Fat Possum — was produced by Bruce Watson and Jimbo Mathus and recorded at Memphis, Tennessee's Delta-Sonic Sound. It finds Wilkes also getting help from Drive-By Truckers bassist Matt Patton, up-and-coming soul singer Liz Brasher, and the horn section from Bluff City R&B band, The Bo-Keys. Wilkes describes Fire Dream as a "hillbilly-gypsy fantasia," and "Jones" is the fifth track on the effort, which finds his many influences backed up against the bluegrass that his fans have come to expect.

“Of course, there’s bluegrass and hillbilly songs, but also blues, jazz, old time fiddle music, jug band music, even swamp rock,” said Wilkes. “It’s a great intersection there. I think I epitomize that in the way that I write and perform.”

The Kentucky native brings his show to our neck of the woods on February 23 when he opens for Unknown Hinson at Skipper's Smokehouse in Tampa. 

"I plan on approaching the songs more artfully live. I might be sitting on a chair playing banjo instead of jumping in the crowd like I do with the band,” said Wilkes, who plans on touring with an acoustic combo, his 64-key Tom Thumb piano and his usual on stage intensity. “I’ll still want to entertain, it might just be more with my eyes and voice than my body. There’s a lot of stories and a lot of mysteries being revealed in these songs, and that provides its own kind of animation. That’s what I love about this record and this music … it moves.”

Listen to "Wild Bill Jones" below, and get more information on the show via Call your local record store to see it'll carry the release. Get more info on pre-ordering the album via Bandcamp.

Unknown Hinson w/J.D. Wilkes
Fri. Feb. 23, 8 p.m. $15-$20.
Skipper's Smokehouse, 910 Skipper Rd., Tampa.

About The Author

Ray Roa

Read his 2016 intro letter and disclosures from 2022 and 2021. Ray Roa started freelancing for Creative Loafing Tampa in January 2011 and was hired as music editor in August 2016. He became Editor-In-Chief in August 2019. Past work can be seen at Suburban Apologist, Tampa Bay Times, Consequence of Sound and The...
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