They’re called the Sons of Bill, because that’s what they are: Abe, James, and Sam Wilson, the three sons of William Wilson, a Professor Emeritus of Literature and Theology at the University of Virginia. The Charlottesville, Virginia-based band, made up of the Wilson brothers, Seth Green, and Todd Wellons, formed in 2005, but started getting national and international attention with their 2012 album, Sirens.
Guitarist and vocalist James Wilson (who also teaches a class on Faulkner when he’s not on tour with his brothers) once told me that if there’s one thing that holds true throughout their wide ranging discography, it’s Bill: their early musical history consists mostly of their father and his guitar, playing them all the old songs he thought were worth singing. There was no stereo in their house. “We could all tell at a young age how much songs meant to him. Looking back on it, there was a lot of Mississippi John Hurt, Louvin Brothers, Hank Williams, Townes Van Zandt, and traditional songs and hymns as well, but in our eyes they were all my dad’s songs and we didn’t figure out who wrote them until much later. Though we all got into various forms of rock and roll in our teenage years, my dad’s take on what makes a song beautiful, tragic, or hopeful stuck with us.”
If pressed, you’d call Sons of Bill an Americana band, but they don’t mind wandering across genre. They’ve spent their time uptempo in past albums. Their latest effort Love and Logic (available September 30) is a more reflective, somber record than they’ve ever made before. The influence of producer Ken Coomer is evident here, and you’ll hear shades of both Wilco and Uncle Tupelo. It’s soulful roots rock grounded in the mountain and church music of their youth. Love and Logic is music as big and old as the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Even still, there’s a simplicity to the band’s songwriting that’s as strong here as it’s ever been— somehow self-aware without caving in to the easy temptation of self-mockery. “I wanna go fishin’,” they say in the surprisingly deep “Fishing Song.” It’s a sentiment no less true for being the punch line to countless country tunes over even more decades. They believe with equal conviction that the world is a vexing, place, and that just maybe, fishing is actually the answer.
The band is currently on tour with dates scheduled across the South through the end of the year. Love and Logic goes on sale Tuesday, September 30, but you have a first listen now with G&G’s exclusive stream of the album.