James Wilson, the acclaimed lead musician of the Americana band Sons of Bill, will be in residency next week with Sewanee’s Department of Music. The residency will conclude with a concert on Friday, March 31, at 4:30 p.m. in St. Luke’s Chapel. The performance is free and open to the public, but tickets are required.
The band, which includes Wilson’s brothers Abe and Sam, has sold over 20,000 albums and toured extensively on both sides of the Atlantic. Their latest LP, Love and Logic, debuted at #7 on the Billboard Heatseekers chart. The group was described by Rolling Stone magazine as, “Led by three Virginia-bred brothers, Sons of Bill is the sort of family band whose sheer energy makes everyone want to be part of the clan… as long as you can keep up.”
Wilson is a Virginian of the old school, being both a writer and teacher as well as a musician. While lots of people are selling the South these days--NASCAR, bass boats, and barbecue--there’s a complicated, more beautiful and literary side of Dixie that hasn’t been aired out in pop music. No doubt the single biggest influence on the band is their father and namesake, William Wilson, professor emeritus of theology and literature at the University of Virginia and part-time picker in the Virginia Piedmont.
In addition to his music career, James Wilson is a published author on the works of William Faulkner. “I think, in an abstract way, that Faulkner is a writer who reinvented what Southern literature means for his time and place, and he ended up with something new and yet timeless,” says James. “When I listen to some so-called ‘Southern’ bands these days, I can't help but feel some dishonesty, like what is timeless and meaningful about the people and its history is being sold cheap.”
The band's engagement with literature and especially Faulkner runs deep. The video for their song "Santa Ana Winds" quotes Faulkner's own voice from his Nobel Prize speech in Stockholm, 1950. Faulkner's concluding observation there--that "the poet's voice need not merely be the record of man, it can be one of the props, the pillars to help him endure and prevail"--is reinforced by James Wilson's songwriting, from allusions to Faulkner and Homer, to apostrophes of fishing and nature in general.
Wilson will be on campus the last week of March. The final concert with Wilson and other members of Sons of Bill is free to the public, although due to space limitations, a TICKET reservation is required.
A generous gift from Sewanee parents Barry and Sherri Stowe makes the residency possible. Please direct questions to: Stephen Miller, Chair, Department of Music <firstname.lastname@example.org>.