After a chance meeting at a beachside convenience store brought Kate Mullikin and Bryan Shelton together in the most unusual of ways, the Santa Cruz, CA residents joined forces to create the Americana duo, Wild Iris. When Mullikin’s inner poet and emotive vocals meet Shelton’s finely tuned flat picking guitar style, the result is one of the most melodious LPs to be offered so far this year. Following up on their 2014 debut EP, Wild Iris’s self-titled sophomore effort is available April 19th.
The first half of Wild Iris opens with “Mine All Mine.” What starts innocently enough with upbeat vocals, an acoustic guitar and a tambourine quickly turns into a full on, toe tapping country-blues jam. With an addictive beat and an incredible mix of instruments that includes a violin and a banjo, it is impossible not to move while listening to it. “Keys” has an ominous sounding intro that soon bursts into a fast paced story about a thankfully interrupted post-party driving episode. While the combination of tambourines and violins make another appearance here, the highlight belongs to the guitar solo which is reminiscent of an acoustic Carlos Santana.
Mullikin and Shelton take everything down a few notches on the somber “Getting Home is Getting Harder Every Day” where the vocals bring Carly Simon to mind. “Wild Iris” continues the slower to mid-tempo pace of the previous track against a West Virginia feel with lyrics about a confident free spirit. “Wild Iris is waiting at the top of the hill/ She’s mixing the moonshine…/And all those lost souls with their hours to kill/Come to sip from her spirit at the top of the hill.”
“What I’ll Find” takes aim at slowing everything down and taking it all in as a life strategy. The nicely constructed acoustic guitar opening eventually welcomes other instruments such as the tambourine and a piano as Mullikin sings, “When I’m not in awe and paying attention/When I stop wasting all my time/I wonder what I’ll find.” The next track, “I’m Done” opens simply enough with vocals and acoustic guitar. But like previous songs, it doesn’t take long before it bursts out of its musical seams, the energetic toe tapping returns and you find yourself rooting for Mullikin and her declaration that, “I’m done with this and I’m done with you” as she lyrically walks away from it all. The mid-point of Wild Iris is “Phoenix.” Quick hitting, and once again lively both musically and lyrically, “Phoenix” is about never staying down in love since it is what allows people to rise.
The second half of Wild Iris kicks off with “Lazy Daze.” A song that is essentially about relaxing with lyrics such as “You know I’ll never quit my hammock hanging ways/Thats because I love these slow down lazy days,” this track adds hand clapping and a harmonica to the duo’s repertoire giving it a down south sensibility. “Those American Spirit Blues” takes an interesting approach by giving the song a muffled sound not unlike the slight distortion given off by an old record player. It also keeps the music simple by narrowing it down to little more than one well played guitar.