CULTURE- BUZZ BOX Sons of Bill: A band to get you started

It really wouldn't be gross hyperbole to say that Sons of Bill has been in the works for over 20 years. The core of the up-and-coming country rockers is the trio of the Wilson brothers, all of whom were raised on the acoustic fingerpicking of their father, William, before forging into hard rock, bluegrass, classical, and jazz.

Aside from that two-decade warmup period, though, it's actually been a pretty quick start– the band's first gig was opening for Monticello Road in December. A couple of months later, they won the UVA Battle of the Bands and were rewarded with some free recording time at Crystalphonic Studios. That resulted in A Far Cry From Freedom, the album they're releasing at Starr Hill on May 12.

Despite having been raised in a musical household, this marks the first time the brothers have shared a band. "James was always in the mosh pits at my heavy metal shows, but we didn't play together," says guitarist Sam Wilson.

Now he's adding his own guitar work to songs written by baby brother James, with middle sibling Abe on keys and banjo. "We're so different," says Sam. "It's not like we're three brothers who are all the same. It kind of creates this dichotomy. Or trichotomy, rather."

The same could be said of their roots: James went through a heavy metal phase as well, and Sam has played off and on with Thompson/D'earth for several years. "One of the reasons the band has been successful is that it's traditional country, but it has a lot of other influences," says Sam. But they have more predictable influences, too: Wilco (along with its assorted offshoots), Robert Earl Keen, Dwight Yoakam, and Steve Earle.

It's that last one that's most closely tied to the band's vocal character; James is a 22-year-old who is seriously interested in a number of much older songwriters, and his singing somehow oozes maturity and youth simultaneously.

On the other hand, Sam's voice, nicely showcased on "Whispering," wouldn't sound terribly out of place in Thrice or Something Corporate.

Wait a second, redneck emo kids? Er, maybe not, but perhaps we're on to something here: the level of accessibility is quite remarkable for a genre so hideously quick to typecast. But it's not some groundbreaking sort of fusion, and it's not Americana for the popped-collar set. It's just a great "My First Country Band" for people who didn't think they had the patience, because what else can you do with lines like "I've gotta get the hell out of Texas/because Texas ain't where a Virginia boy belongs?"

No matter what your stylistic predilections may be, if the first few bars of the title track don't get your fist pumping, you have no business being out that late on a Friday night in the first place.