Hailing from Seattle, Washington the five-piece Woodland West have their roots in bluegrass but they branch out to explore various forms of music from Americana to psychedelic rock on their debut Devil to Pay. The band is fronted by dual vocalists Stephanie Ward and Luke Yanz and backed up by Chuck Dunklin, Amir Reoven and Dan Rogers.
One pretty amazing thing to note about the group is that each of them is responsible for playing multiple instruments on Devil to Pay. These instruments range in scope from guitar and banjo to violin and piano. And as one listens to through the songs on Devil to Pay one can’t helped but be impressed by the instrumentation as well as how well it is all orchestrated together.
Devil to Pay opens with the very upbeat and straightforward bluegrass “Mother Mountain” on which the band uses to show off their musical chops right off the bat. There is the expected intense mandolin solo but then also a very beautiful violin piece that breaks up the song and leaves one scratching their head as to how seamlessly Woodland West pull it off. Then without warning the next tune “Rosaline” takes a detour into psychedelic bluesy rock n’ roll yet still manages to work in the bluegrass element once again seamlessly.
Later the Woodland West begins “A Little Bit Wild” as a quiet sounding acoustic ballad. But it slowly begins to build as Ward and Yanz sing a duet and suddenly the song shifts to something very powerful before taking a spin into a bit of oddball psychedelia before bringing it back into a bluegrass focus.
Devil to Pay closes with the ten-plus-minute enthralling epic “Man on Fire” which unfolds slowly from bluegrass to a very Pink Floyd inspired crashing instrumental close. It seems to encompass in one song everything Woodland West is trying to do.
If you’re a fan of bluegrass then it goes without saying that you should check out Woodland West’s Devil to Pay. But if you’re not a fan of bluegrass you should check out the album even more. It will have you rethinking what music can be as it knocks down the high walls that genre has built.
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