It's Nice To Be Understood

A well written review from AmericanaUK of Wild Bill Jones:

  • The Quiet American is a duo consisting of husband and wife Aaron and Nicole Keim, and together they have created in "Wild Bill Jones" something pretty special. For you can count 'em on the fingers of one hand - the true American folk concept albums. This is one of them - not just a themed album or a set of vaguely connected songs, but a proper story telling session over fifteen tracks.

  • It narrates, through songs and tunes, that old story of boy meets girl meets different boy who gets girl pregnant and is then shot by jealous first boy. First boy is then hung; girl is left alone to mourn. It's an old story, and it's told in a very traditional way with the "old-timey" principal instruments of clawhammer banjo, guitar and fiddle with blended male and female vocals.

    The songs are a mix of roughly half and half traditional and new songs - although it would take a fine ear indeed to separate the one from the other. Opener "Apple in the Fall" is a perfect example - telling of a girl becoming an adult, with the men starting to come to call - the mix of banjo, handclaps and the chorus sung as a round all work to portray a song at least a hundred years old, but no, it's a new one. "Come walkin' with me" similarly pulls off the appearance of age, but on this occasion by "borrowing" a tune from "Take a whiff on me" and minstrelising it - there's a really fine swooping fiddle break from Greg Canote and a sweet bit of jogging harmonica added by Jere Canote.

    It's the natural flow of the album from end to end that is so impressive, there is a superb central section starting with "Wild Bill Jones" which depicts the murderer's courtroom defiance, that flows into the night before the hanging jaunty repentance of "Keys to the Kingdom" followed up by the restless sleep and disturbed final dreams of the instrumental "Crooked Tree Waltz" which segues straight into the white-rope terror of "Gallows Pole". Here the traditional pleading for family and friends to buy the condemned man's freedom is greeted with the lyrical twist "you ain't pure like silver / you don't shine like gold / I just came to watch you hang / hanging from the Gallows Pole". With its insistent drumming beat and edgy banjo playing it performs the minor miracle of polishing up this well-worn song into something new.

    The last third of the album closes out events by following young Posey's path from the murder of her lover and the hanging of her impassioned would-be suitor. Sorrow and acceptance and the hope for a new love, though that be as yet unfound, are played out in a series of songs that showcase Nicole Keim's sweet and clear voice. A beautiful duet, on Daniel Johnston's bitter-sweet "True Love Will Find You In The End", makes a fitting closing track. This is a superb album in concept and in execution. The playing is perfect, and the vocals are to die for. What I need to do here is throw in a generous handful of adjectives caught up from the box of superlatives, but let’s save a little time - if you like old-timey / American folk / good music then run to the record store (or the internet if you must) and get hold of this album.