House of Wills
What if you took 2 Texas legends, Willie Nelson and Bob Wills, the king of Texas Western Swing, and put them together in new elegant jazzy arrangements? That's what we've done at Will Taylor and Strings Attached. We're known in Austin for our fresh and intelligent interpretations of classic material. For this project, Will has created some gorgeous arrangements for violin, cello, jazz trumpet, mandolin, upright bass and of course guitar. It features vocals by solo recording artists Karen Mal and Steve Carter. I grew up in the heart of Willie Nelson country. Central Texas: Home of the Broken Spoke, Soap Creek Saloon, Willie's picnics, the Stallion, the Armadillo World Headquarters, Gruene Hall, and the Kerrville Folk Festival. You'd think these musical institutions would occupy more than the periphery of my childhood musical landscape. My musician friends used to tell me: 'Will, if you want to make any money as a musician in Austin you ought to be playing fiddle in a country band.' But I was more interested in performing classical chamber music, and playing the solos of French jazz violinist Stephane Grappelli. In 1987 I turned down a scholarship from the New England Conservatory in favor of playing jazz viola in clubs on 6th street. What was I thinking? Twelve years later I started Strings Attached as a genre-blurring collaboration with folk artists. Our vision was to fuse jazz and classical flavors with the contemporary singer/songwriter genre; to dress it up with a little different jewelry. From the classical tradition we borrowed the architectural precision of composition and arranging. From jazz we brought the performance ethic of making choices spontaneously, in response to each other and the present musical moment. And then there's that irresistible sense of'swing' - the thing that gets people dancing. I was working with stellar Austin songwriters like Eliza Gilkyson, Jimmy LaFave and Slaid Cleaves. My ears started turning toward the fiddle side of the violin spectrum. And inevitably, toward what became House of Wills. I've always been inspired and seduced by sounds that mix different styles. This project came about from two separate show ideas from fans that we grafted together. Both Willie and Wills draw from diverse influences: blues, classical, folk, traditional bluegrass, jazz. As we researched the Bob Wills style, we fell in love with the raw, unpretentious, and old-fashioned quality, wrapped up in elegant arrangements. We heard Big Band sounds dressed up in cowboy hats, with fiddles and steel guitar in the foreground instead of horns. With consummate musicianship and playful improvisation throughout. When we started to explore Willie's catalogue, the wealth of material to choose from was astonishing. From outlaw country to standards to gospel. The possibilities of twining Texas Swing through it were dazzling. We were drawn to his rhythmic sensibility; his casual and masterful ease. The way he sings a melody, or flirts with a guitar solo- now that's jazz. And the tender economy of his lyrics...Well, we don't have to tell you. Pop the CD in and give it a listen. After all the years, I'm finally playing fiddle in a country band! Will Taylor, December 2010 About the recording process: On first listen, you may notice a roomy quality to the mix. Maybe you hear a creak from the oak floor or the squeak of fingers on strings. Most of the music was recorded live with just two microphones in stereo. It's not so different from the way Bob Wills and the Texas playboys recorded in the early days, around one mike and straight to wax disc. With the band all together in our living room and the challenge of capturing performances in one take, we think the results have some thrill and adrenaline running through them. We hope you do too.