This Libby-reared fella and his blue-chip band, based out of Spokane, have put out a top-notch recording of Wilburn’s originals in the western-swing vein. Boy howdy do they nail it!
Wilburn, who played guitar, steel guitar, and fiddle for 15 years with Wylie and the Wild West, is a pretty good picker, and he’s got a superb baritone voice that’s ideal for storytelling. As he puts it, his songs come from “truck stops, smoky barrooms, railroad yards, ranches, and broken romances.”
When he sings, you’re taken to those places, and it’s not surprising. His dad and uncle played with the fabled Snake River Outlaws in the 40s and 50s; Wilburn followed in their footsteps, performing professionally at 15. Soon he was on stage with the likes of country legends Ferlin Husky and Hank Thompson.
The posse of talented pickers who assist him on the album includes Rick Bryceson, drums, percussion, and vocals; Eugene Jablonsky, bass and vocals; and Duane Becker, steel guitar. All these guys have sterling musical credentials in their own right, as do current Playboys in the live shows – Bobby Black in place of Becker on steel guitar, and Paul Anastasio on fiddle.
The title tune, “Café del Norte,” has south-of-the-border flavor with a great hook, complete with “ooh-la-las.” “Tonight I’ve Really Got the Blues” is a slumberous blues number with Texas swing nuances. There’s syrupy steel guitar and lyrics like “I awake from my sleep without dreamin’, to my ashtray and beer-can décor.” Gotta love it!
“Ninety-Proof Fever” is a pretty shuffle that mingles wishful thinking with barroom ambience. “He wishes she was her, and she wishes he was him.” That’s putting it succinctly, yes?
There’s lots more. Wilburn and the boys execute all the styles perfectly, creating songs that sound fresh and danceable. This one is a keeper.
– Mariss McTucker