If Brian Wilson had started the Beach Boys in 1930s Kentucky, they would have sounded like Wheels. The Yellow Springs folk prodigies possess a maturity and depth far beyond their years. No band member is older than 16. They sing songs of love lost and nostalgic ballads for sweet home Ohio. Hearing them, you’d think they’d been playing bluegrass their whole lives. But they just picked up their instruments a year ago – and only met each other when they tried to sing for spare change on the same Yellow Springs street corners. Rail-thin mandolinist Sam Salazar defines the group’s sound with his soaring, angelic tenor. He looks like a folk-rock Pete Doherty. Guitarist Rory Papania chimes in with his brooding baritone to harmonize with Salazar. Multi-intrumentalist Jamie Scott lends his intense vocals along with an immaculate sense of timing on drums and harmonica. Sam Crawford plucks the upright bass as if he was born with one in his hands. Something in the Yellow Springs water supply must account for the mind-boggling array of talent from this little town. Wheels are a band of old souls – other bands drown years of sorrow in a whiskey bottle to achieve a similar sound – yet no member of Wheels is even old enough to drink. The band is set to play at Canal Street Tavern on Sunday, May 29 to celebrate the release of their new album, Fields on Fire.
– By Benjamin Dale