Wilson Banjo Co - Memory Lane

Pinecastle Records


Led by banjo player Steve Wilson, who incidentally also designs and builds custom banjos for a growing number of big-name players, this band is basically a duo comprising Wilson and young Sarah Logan. For this latest album they are joined by various combinations of players and singers drawn from a pool of 15 musicians, including Clay Hess, Deanie Richardson, Tony Wray, Josh Raines, Glen Crain, Jason Fraley and Jamie Carter. Sarah Logan, who handles lead vocals on eight of the ten tracks and plays fiddle, is without doubt one of the finest and most versatile young bluegrass vocalists to have emerged in recent years. She can be soulful, bluesy or more demurely emotional, with equal ease, whilst Steve demonstrates why he is held in such high esteem for his banjo playing. The result is a stunning bluegrass collection that runs the gamut from fast-paced toe-tappers to sad-tinged Appalachian ballads, to bluesy and more folksy tunes.

Opening with Sadie Danced A Hole In Her Stocking, this release immediately comes alive with the rich sounds of Sarah’s joy-filled vocals and Steve’s bright rhythmic banjo picking, joined by Glen Crain’s tuneful Resonator and Sarah also showcasing her superb fiddle work. A fond memoir of carefree days of family get-together’s, in which music and dancing took place late into the evening in the living room, followed early the next day by all heading off to church. In contrast, The Gavel tackles the country genre’s rich tradition of mining murder ballad lore, though in this case, it’s told from a female perspective. The bluesy ballad tells of a tragic romance from the warm blush of new love to a solitary life in prison. The story unfolds to a dark arrangement, as the song moves along, until it drifts away with poor Sarah rotting away in jail for killing her abusive husband. 

Sarah and the musicians breathe new life into Coalmine, a 2006 top 40 country hit for Sara Evans. Measured banjo-picking is accompanied by what seems like the sound of Appalachian flatfooting, along with Sarah’s dynamic fiddle and sassy vocal, making for a track that is hard not to dance along to. There’s a passionate longing in her voice on Memphis Anymore, a great song that really ought to be played on mainstream country radio. By gosh, this girl is so good! She turns more reflective on Nightbird, a heartbreaking song of sleepless nights following a relationship breakdown. Her interpretation of the medley Our last Goodbye/Walk Softly On This Heart Of Mine is an old-school country production reminiscent of Rose Maddox. Driven by her hillbilly vocal tone and the near-perfect arrangement of banjo, fiddle and Resonator guitar. They close the album with the hymn-like Come To Me, on which her soft croon is joined by the delicate harmonies of Melanie Wilson. A beautiful performance which will lead most listeners to press that repeat button to hear the whole album over-and-over again.


March 2024