Catching the spirit of pioneering roots artists like the Byrds, Gram Parsons and the Band, Southern California revivalists Wish and the Well release their ambitious and utterly stunning debut, Darling, Darling, in January, 2017. Convening the sparse, elegant song structures of Americana with vibrant swaths of blues, soul and classic rock, the San Diego-based quintet have conjured a sound as arresting as it is weirdly beautiful.
Co-founded in 2015 by guitarist and principal songwriter Corey Leal and keys/pedal steel player Dillon Casey, Wish and the Well draw deeply from a wide spectrum of influences, ranging from Son House to Sam Cooke to Hank Williams, synthesizing these timeless styles into a sound that pays homage to the past while bringing it squarely into the here and now. “I grew up on soul and doo wop,” says Corey. “That focus on hooks and melody has always stuck with me. I try to write happy melodies with heartfelt and sentimental lyrics. You know, really depressing shit,” he laughs.
Sidestepping any attempt to pigeonhole their sound into a single genre, Corey says, “Americana seems to be the easiest term to throw at us because we’re not a rock and roll band and we’re not a country band.” And yet a what pitches Wish and the Well far beyond today’s rank and file Americana outfits are the ethereal melodic textures that emerge through the playing of lead guitarist Steven Crowle and Corey’s inventive acoustic riffs, creating a sound that owes as much to the Temptations as to Johnny Cash. Tracks like ‘Orange Grove’ burst with wide-eyed rustic fervor and sun-drenched hooks that invest each song with a warm intimacy. Elsewhere, songs like “Empty Vessel” tap into the vintage FM sound of the 70s, with a syrupy pedal steel drizzling achingly gorgeous melodies over Corey’s easy west coast croon. “‘Empty Vessel’ is about being empty inside and you’re looking in the mirror asking, ‘Who do I want to become?’ but not knowing who you are.”
Meanwhile, rollicking uptempo numbers like “Ain't That Something” and “Let It Burn” showcase Corey’s rough, expressive vocals and the thick, swinging bass lines of Trevor Mulvey. “When I wrote ‘Ain’t That Something,’” Corey explains, “it was more of a rocker. Then I saw saw this bitchin’ Tom Waits performance that had such a cool vibe, with a piano and sax. It was just steady like a train. I thought, ‘That’s it. That’s the vibe. We need to capture that.’ So Cheyne pulled out his brushes and starts going to town on this old, deep snare. Steady like a train.” Indeed, the arrangements are loose but assured, giving tracks like “Orange Grove” a stripped down and timeless appeal.
While the production coaxes a lush, full-bodied sound, there’s no studio trickery obscuring the performances; Darling, Darling’s wide open spaces and loose grooving perfectly captures the improvisational creativity of band’s expressive live set that has, in just a year, attracted sizable audiences in a slew of headlining gigs, festival stages and support slots. Wish and the Well release Darling, Darling on January 27, 2017, with supporting dates to follow.
- Words by Joe Daly