Wood & Wire earned a Grammy nod for 2018's third LP North of Despair, but pressure seems light on their impressive follow-up. The local 'grassers strike direct, with the easy roll and playfully lyric licks of "Can't Keep Up With You" and "Paddlewheels" hearkening the late, great John Hartford. Billy Bright's mandolin and Trevor Smith's banjo stunt in provocative ways without ever simply showing off, and frontman Tony Kamel keeps the proceedings civil amid the acerbic wit and contemporary cultural critiques like "Pigs." Homage remains a hallmark of their genre, so the album's two instrumentals say plenty, Vassar Clements tribute "Clamp's Chute" and the nearly six-minute racetrack of "Roadie's Circles," with Peter Rowan's yelp, leading the way. Beyond the quartet's virtuosic strings, their stellar knack for narrative sets them apart, here given a nostalgic tinge from Kamel's reeling "John," and the standout double shot of Bright's road-weary "Home and the Banjo" and brooding, dusty, El Paso border ode "My Hometown." No Matter Where It Goes From Here spins more humble than previous outings, but also finds Wood & Wire firmly astride some of their best work.
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