Wilkinson Blades Album Review
While touring, writing, and making records with his band Mission 5, Steve Wilkinson knew he wanted to make a record that would be “done on my own time, without rushing and without worrying about deadlines.” Thus, Wilkinson Blades was born, the Portland, Oregon based rock act. With a 5 year time frame to work (the album was completed in 4), Wilkinson started out making a solo record and later recruited friends and some of his favorite musicians from Portland to make a record that had the feel of a ‘band’ but sounded like himself. Most of the instruments were played by Wilkinson himself, but he included his fellow musicians as much as he could to create the feel of a band without the constrictions one provides. The results yielded 4 AM, eleven tracks of reverb-drenched Americana, pulsing rock anthems, power pop, and a dash of 60’s psychedelic buzz.
Wilkinson’s gritty growl is the centerpiece of most of the tunes. Almost 5 years of songwriting paid off for the lyrics and Wilkinson digs deep on the tracks to paint a picture of life on the road, love, and heartbreak. “Wishing I’d Never Know You” is clearly a shout out to a woman who scorned him and love lost, and Wilkinson holds nothing back. The opening track “No Exit” accompanies the gravelly vocals with a chugging bass line and thoughts of life on the road. It makes you want to get in your car and take a long road trip with Wilkinson riding shotgun.
The standout track on the album is a cover of Lee Hazelwood’s “Some Velvet Morning.” Dripping with psychedelic overtones and trippy, ethereal vocals, Wilkinson sounds as if he could be the long lost brother of Jim Morrison. Hazelwood originally recorded the tune as a duet with Nancy Sinatra in late 1967. It is the one track that strays from the general concept of the album, but Wilkinson delivers it with perfection. The lines of the chorus are traded back and forth between Wilkinson and a female companion, with acid soaked lines and quicker beats for Wilkinson, while his female counterpart slows it down with a dreamlike, melodic trance that draws you in and transports you to another time.
When Wilkinson strays from roots-y pop and rock to power pop on the track “Sunshine Now,” he loses a little momentum from the rest of the album. It seems to be out of place with everything else contained within 4 AM. The track is an ode to living in the rainy, gloomy Northwest and longing for the sunshine, but falls a little flat with the pacing of the other tracks.
Wilkinson said he wanted to make a record that he could be proud of and play for his friends, and that goal was reached with 4 AM. The eleven tracks draw you into his musical world and take you on a short journey. You get a good vision of his life, where he is from and where he is going, and by the end can’t help rooting for Steve Wilkinson.