SONS OF BILL

Sons Of Bill Laura Partain

James Wilson vocals, guitar

Sam Wilsonvocals, guitar, pedal steel, keys

Abe Wilsonvocals, piano, synthesizer

OH GOD MA'AM (album)

“Dynamic and literate… astral Southern rock in the grand tradition of Murmur”
8/10
UNCUT

“Reaching far beyond their Americana roots, Sons of Bill brew up a lush, literate sound with this year’s Oh God Ma’am, a wide-ranging album that mixes honesty, hooks and headiness in equal measure.”
ROLLING STONE

“An album of roots-rock that screams to be heard by a wider audience”
★★★★
SCOTTISH DAILY EXPRESS

“a delicate, delightfully tuned sound, but their brilliantly bleak and mysterious lyrics broker a much more complex and fascinating world beneath the cool surface.”
★★★★
DAILY MIRROR

“An engrossing record… Like most things worthy of retention, the appreciation gets better as time goes by.”
PASTE

“A soaring, contemplative brand of Americana that feels genuinely current even as it affectionately nods to the past”
CLASSIC ROCK

“At times nakedly exposed, at others complexly layered, introverted yet expansive, it marks a major stride forward in their musical journey”
FOLK RADIO

“A great piece of Americana. REM’s Murmur is a touch stone, The War On Drugs, mid-80’s Bruce Springsteen… anyone who’s a fan of those artists will surely find a place for Oh God Ma’am in their record collection – More than a hint of the darkness that perhaps informed the record, but it’s their best piece of work so far.” (Album of Note feature)
RODDY HART, BBC RADIO SCOTLAND

“faultlessly crafted and classically structured… a melding of approach roads that lifts Oh God Ma’am above the vast majority off efforts paddling about in similar waters. A considered but excellent record.”
8/10
GOD IS IN THE TV

“Oh God Ma’am is a cinematic daydream and anthemic glow all the while maintaining an unrivalled intimacy. It may be built on our deepest fears and worries, but it’s a composed and seamless stretch of songs that find the band coming into their own.”
“While they certainly hinted at spacey synth-fueled charges on previous efforts, they fully embrace the rich mood setter this time around. They push themselves into darker, unknown territory with earnest anthemic rushes and glowing harmonies while still maintaining a wrapped up intimacy. Most of the time, artists can only choose one aura or temper, yet Sons of Bill navigate a fine line that draws from both worlds.”
WIDE OPEN COUNTRY

“Full of lyrical introspection and drifting guitars. Lovely”
MOJO

“Sons of Bill have really hit paydirt with their latest long player which sees them moving beyond their Americana-rock template to embrace a sonically more expansive sound that isn’t afraid to move into Grandaddy territory and is all the better for it.”
THE CRACK

“Oh God Ma’am is an absolute stunner, a sweeping piece of ‘80s-tinged guitar rock that recalls the sounds of New Order, The War on Drugs, and R.E.M., while still being unmistakably Sons of Bill.”
BRIGHTEST YOUNG THINGS

“Oh God Ma’am’ sounds like a band testing themselves and above all, aiming big… a band coming to realise a new potential.”
“SoB have a wow factor and it’s in full effect… A more perfect evening of music you’d be hard pushed to find”
10/10
WHISPERIN’ AND HOLLERIN’

“Oh God Ma’am will resonate deeply with anyone who’s spent long, lonesome nights lost in contemplation… there’s comfort in these songs because they paint familiar events and experiences in a way that’s so artistically compelling – lyrically literate and ambiently beautiful – it’s hard not to feel cleansed by them.”
★★★★
STEREOBOARD

“Luminous Americana Indie Pop…. A different kind of album for Sons Of Bill, but with one which should win them many new fans.”
SOUNDS AND BOOKS

“Sons of Bill are one of the best of their craft, it’ll be exciting to see what the future holds for the Wilson Brothers”
PLATTENTESTS.DE

“fine catchy songwriting with grand atmospheric pictures”
CLASSIC ROCK GERMANY

“Sentimental journeys in dark soul landscapes, inspired by The War On Drugs, The Decemberists or late Replacements”
ROLLING STONE GERMANY

“lovely…ripe for discovery”
THE SUNDAY TIMES

“this gifted Virginia band spreading their wings a little and adopting a much more expansive sound which in some ways harks back to the best of eighties college rock. The finished product is eloquent, multi-textured and subtly memorable”
ORIGINAL ROCK

“Oh God Ma’am is a harshly beautiful album that slip slides seamlessly from track to track, taking the listener on a cerebral journey unlike anything else I’ve heard this year.”
ROCKING MAGPIE

“heartfelt, touching, welcoming with a warm hug into the darkness… I fell absolutely in love with it”
HEILEWELT

“Through the skilful use of various keyboards and digital guitar effects, Sons Of Bill musically sketch a kind of New Wave pop feeling, which they cleverly combine with their nonchalant Southern stories… The guys from Virginia have always had good songs on top of that – now there’s a comparatively experimental, tonal environment added.”

GAESTELISTE

James Wilson’s voice gives a homely roots feeling and takes you on an exciting journey through the Wilson’s Americana universe…An all-rounded, successful album, with which SONS OF BILL should finally outgrow their insider status.

HOOKED ON MUSIC

“After the strong Americana album “Love & Logic” comes Oh “God Ma’am” – an equal successor, full of inventiveness. The change of style from carefree, heartland country / roots rock to profound songs was mastered perfectly. So Sons Of Bill can go on!”
SOUNDS OF SOUTH

★★★★
WESTZEIT

“Imagine The Avett Brothers transforming into The Lotus Eaters circa 1983 via early Wilco and mainstream R.E.M…. Creamy harmonies, ephemeral guitar sound, flowing melodies, sleek production.”
THE AFTERWORD

“Oh God Ma’am finds this gifted Virginia band spreading their wings a little and adopting a much more expansive sound which in some ways harks back to the best of eighties college rock. The finished product is eloquent, multi-textured and subtly memorable… capturing brothers Sam, James and Abe Wilson at the peak of their performing powers.”
THE MESSENGER

“If you’re searching for the perfect soundtrack to a sedate drive down some sun-scorched motorway, look no further”
IRISH NEWS

“another great album by a band that should be shifting albums by the lorry load.”
LONESOME HIGHWAY

“Tune in, and few bands are as good as Sons of Bill in executing a mood-driven sound of escapist melodic rock bridging the past, present and future.”
THREE CHORDS AND THE TRUTH

“excellent follow-up to their breakout record… Those who are open to the band exploring new horizons are in for a treat.”
AMERICANA HIGHWAYS

“an intriguing and enjoyable change of direction from the Virginian brothers”
8/10
AMERICANA UK

“striking songwriting that touches heart, soul and mind. Idyllic harmonies, melodic splendour and sonic romanticism”
Five Brand New MUST-HEAR Albums
TURN UP THE VOLUME

“a mandatory purchase for every Americana or roots-rock fan”
BLUES MAGAZINE

★★★★
KIELER NACHRICHTEN

“Oh God Ma‘am is the most mature record from Sons Of Bill yet, but still a guarantor for easygoing 45 minutes of humming along or wallowing…the new tracks come to the point quickly – melodies and hooks”
12/15
MUSIKREVIEWS.DE

“an interesting and progressive record”
YORK CALLING

“Oh God Ma’am is a beautiful, fey and gently dark collection of songs from Sons of Bill.”
9/10
ON YORKSHIRE

“Perfect for a lazy summer’s day, but with enough hooks to warrant repeated listenings”
7/10
THE SUNDAY POST

“elegant, eloquent”
★★★★
YORK PRESS

“easy going and elegant”
9/10
ALBUM OF THE WEEK
PETERBOROUGH TELEGRAPH

“eloquent, multi-textured and subtly memorable, with stand-out tracks”
KENT MESSENGER

“If you’re searching for the perfect soundtrack to a sedate drive down some sun-scorched motorway, look no further”
BELFAST TELEGRAPH

“an immersive Americana wall of sound, some tracks seeming anthemic”
★★★★
BUILDING OUR OWN NASHVILLE

“Sons of Bill’s very best album, and I never thought I’d say it – but it’s one of the best albums I’ve heard and I love it intensely… This album is genre-crossing so it lasts – challenging both itself, the listener and old fans to the fullest. But oh my God, it’s so beautiful…. This album needs time and effort to find space in your heart, but when it has, you’ve got a friend for life. This is one of the most beautiful I’ve heard this year, and I can not get enough of this album.”
DUST OF DAYLIGHT

“another gem in the genre of the Americana… a surprisingly beautiful album that can join the list of the better albums of this year.”
MPODIA

“I didn’t know who Sons Of Bill were before I was asked to review this gig, and now I’ll never forget them…”
LEEDS LIVING

FIREBIRD '85 (single)

“The new record from Central Virginia brothers Sons Of Bill (the wonderfully titled Oh God Ma’am) is billed in its press release as “equal parts post-adolescent anxiety and old-soul humility – literate, gorgeous, and darkly contemplative”. Judging by Firebird 85’s blend of Springsteen-tinged melancholia, West Coast-y dreaminess and contemporary atmospheric breathing space, it’s justified praise.”
CLASSIC ROCK

EASIER (single)

“frontman James Wilson teams up with indie-folk frontwoman Molly Parden, both of them singing about the emotional armor we all wear just to wage the everyday battle of living. It’s a gorgeous ballad – half resigned and half optimistic, with a rainy-day aesthetic that the bandmates partially credit to one of their album’s two engineers, rock vet Phil Ek. Recorded in both Nashville and Seattle, the self-produced song marks a new peak for the band, rooted in melodies that make the Wilson brothers’ existential musings go down smooth.”
ROLLING STONE

“the wonderfully sluggishly flowing Easier with delicate lapsteel, which is decorated with Molly Parden’s Harmony vocals, becomes the ballad of the album. Ethereally beautiful.”

HOOKED ON MUSIC

BELIEVER / PRETENDER (single)

“The lead single from Oh God Ma’am is an absolute stunner, a sweeping piece of ‘80s-tinged guitar rock that recalls the sounds of New Order, The War on Drugs, and R.E.M., while still being unmistakably Sons of Bill, particularly in its rousing climax of fraternal harmonies.”
BRIGHTEST YOUNG THINGS

“…danceworthy rhythms, dreamy hooks, and pensive harmonies. The band of brothers have rarely been content with their brand of alt country and Americana. This time around, they seem to be further pushing their boundaries with expansive and layered ambiance that feels much like the blurred edges of The War on Drugs. Still, much like Don Henley’s “Boys of Summer” or Bruce Springsteen’s “Downbound Train,” Sons of Bill’s “Believer/Pretender” is filled with hints of anxiety and frustration. It walks a fine line that feels incredibly wide open and anthemic in nature without losing any intimacy or lonesomeness.”
Wide Open Country Weekly Must-Listens

WIDE OPEN COUNTRY

 

“the three Wilson brothers, bassist Seth Green and drummer Todd Wellons succeed in one of the songs of the year, which would have earned a place in every annual poll due to its haunting and hypnotic rhythm”

SOUNDS OF SOUTH

LIVE

“Sons of Bill have mastered the art of heart-wrenching melodic rock, and they are not afraid to prove their virtuosity time and again, leaving us yearning for better times and distant places. Their concert at Omeara will remain long in the minds and souls of the captivated crowd”
★★★★★
THE UPCOMING

“SoB have a wow factor and it’s in full effect… A more perfect evening of music you’d be hard pushed to find”
10/10
WHISPERIN’ & HOLLERIN’

“an excellent show, one that has highlighted the purity of the band’s collective heart, their unfettered humility and great desire to make a strong musical and emotional connection with their audience.”
GOD IS IN THE TV

“an immersive Americana wall of sound, some tracks seeming anthemic”
★★★★
BUILDING OUR OWN NASHVILLE

“When Sons of Bill do rock out they recall The Boss and Jeff Tweedy’s Wilco – or sometimes even Murmur-period REM, but their impulse for melodic introspection is never too far away. And in case this all sounds rather precious, James has a winning way with a dead-pan intro.”
THE CULTURE VULTURE

“”a band reaching increasing levels of maturity, their songs often freighted with a degree of sadness and melancholy, but always balanced with a sense of hope… ”Sons of Bill are an act who are constantly willing to push themselves in new directions, all the while challenging themselves and their loyal – but steadily growing – audience.”

AMERICANA UK

“confidently delivered American rock”

BRISTOL 24/7

If there’s a gun in act one all the experts will say,
That it’s got to be shot by the end of the play,
But I’ll wait for the curtain and watch from the stage,
Getting sweeter and sadder and farther away
– Sons of Bill “Sweeter, Sadder, Farther Away”

 

Oh God Ma’am, the latest LP from central Virginia’s band of brothers, Sons of Bill, opens with a song that on first listen might be mistaken for the album’s outlier: the starkly beautiful, piano driven, “Sweeter, Sadder, Farther Away.” It’s a love song of sorts, but a strange one– sentimental, surreal, and slightly disturbing– lulling the listener in waltz time through an old-world lament of unrequited courtship that seems to end tragically and mysteriously (whether the story ends in murder or suicide or neither for its ghostly lovers is left curiously unanswered). It’s a song that feels both archaic and modern, and yet probably deserves to become a standard. With its sparse production, preternatural melody of an anglo-ballad, and haunting cadence of strangely cerebral rhyming couplets– the message is clear that the listener has signed up for a very different sort of rock album. It’s wistful, darkly contemplative, and plays like an opening statement of purpose– the sound of a band whose inner voice is just getting weirder and sharper.

 

The nine songs that follow on Oh God Ma’am comprise the band’s most coherent and sonically ambitious effort. Recorded both in Seattle with west coast indie legend Phil Ek (Shins, Fleet Foxes) and in Nashville with Sean Sullivan (Sturgill Simpson) and mixed by Peter Katis (The National, Interpol) the album moves beyond the galvanic americana-rock comfort zone of previous efforts, for a more elegant and restrained sound– a darker, and more complexly layered rock record that manages to be the band’s most emotionally intimate and sonically expansive. Insistent rhythms and dreamy, hook-filled, pyrotechnics abound, creating a deceptively anthemic mood around songs that are in and of themselves intensely introverted– an interior voice that is both earnest and aloof–as though singer James Wilson were mostly addressing himself, or at least inviting the listener along for the journey inward.

 

As three sons of a venerated theology and Southern Literature professor at the University of Virginia (who also taught his sons how to play guitar and write songs)– the Sons of Bill were always keen to represent the American South with a slightly higher brow– an upright and literary aspect of the southern culture that rarely gets an adequate hearing in pop music. And like so many of the southern writers they grew up reading (James teaches and is currently writing a book on William Faulkner) The Wilson brothers often pull songs from the darker regions of the human imagination– slyly and earnestly scratching at their own spiritual scabs with both humour and sincerity, as a way of exploring life’s enduring complexities: faith, love, and the weirdness of time. It gives the whole record a unique atmosphere of tragicomedy– equal parts post-adolescent anxiety and old-soul humility. In search of the proper nomenclature, one critic would simply describe Sons of Bill as “metaphysical american music.”

 

Its a record that was years in the making. After touring extensively on both sides of the Atlantic on breakout record Love & Logic, the band was beset by a series of personal and painful tragedies. There were divorces, addictions, and undiagnosed mental conditions within the band, that seemed to creep up out of nowhere. To make matters worse, youngest brother James (tragically and comically) fell on a champagne glass in the middle of the recording process– severing five tendons and the median nerve in his right hand. He not only lost all movement of his fingers, but all feeling in his hand as well. He was given the diagnoses that he may never be able to play guitar again.

 

“Sorrows never come as single spies. But only in battalions” James said, quoting a line from Hamlet that was often referenced by the Wilson’s father. “I think we were all raised with a certain tragic sense of life, which has always come through in our songs, but until you’re in the paralysing throes of adult suffering, you have no idea how dark it can actually be.”

 

“It certainly marks a moment, where we could have hung it up,” James continued, “We had all lost the innocence of youth, each in our own way, and in many ways, that innocence is an essential part of being in a band. Too much reality is absolutely lethal to a certain type of art– rock music especially. It needs a certain infantile grandiosity–the courage of its illusions and dreams. It’s why we love it, and why it feels harder to make vital music as you get older and the ugly realities of everyday life begin to set in. But I’m glad we all took the time to simply channel all that was happening into making a different sort of record. If we had tried to make the same youthful rock record over again it wouldn’t have worked. We just wouldn’t have been able to do it.”

 

The end result on Oh God Ma’am is the sound of a band growing up– sober, healthy, wiser, intentional–even grateful. While these themes of struggle and survival certainly make their way into lyrical elements of the record, they do so with a sense of poetic distance–the voice of a wisened mind observing itself– taking stock of life’s inherent struggles with clarity and grace without any of the youthful naiveté of trying to resolve them. As James asks himself on “Where We Stand,” an apparent existential fist-pumper about life’s random suffering. “If you never get used to this, could you love it all in spite of what it is?”

 

Musical highlights on Oh God Ma’am abound– from the lush, meditative, dream world of love and its illusions “Good Mourning (They can’t break you now)”, or its bawdy antithesis, “Before the Fall,” a propulsive ode to youthful indiscretions reminiscent of Summerteeth era Wilco– the Sons of Bill are obviously committed students to the vast and varying decades of popular music. You can hear everything from Neil Young to New Order–insistent, dancey rhythms with an ethereal rock and roll swagger, all with the poetic distance and humility of Virginia boys who grew up listening to much older music. Those with a taste for the murky indie of the mid-aughts will sink into “Green to Blue” and “Signal Fade” while the driving hooks of “Believer / Pretender”, “Firebird 85”, and “Where We Stand” will quicken the pulse of any cinematic rock fan.

 

Sons of Bill essentially make roots music in the best sense of the term. For a modern genre that is often more sartorial than musical, Oh God Ma’am is the timely antidote– excavating the vast annals of traditional and popular music to craft a rare and refreshing album of nuance and depth in a confusing and overstimulated age. It’s a soundtrack of love and survival– in a time when it is a triumph to simply survive. As James harmonises with Molly Parden on the duet “Easier”– all of the struggles, in art as in life, persist in the hope that someday “when it’s easier / they’ll know we were the vines that held / the walls upright / For all this time.”

Photo credit: Laura Partain

Click individual images to download hi-res version

Oh God Ma'am

Sons of Bill - Oh God Ma'am

Artist: Sons of Bill

Title: Oh God Ma’am

Release date: 29 June 2018

 

Catalogue no.: VJCD242

Formats: CD / heavyweight LP with download / digital

 

Click here to download hi-res artwork

1.  Sweeter, Sadder, Farther Away
2.  Firebird ‘85
3.  Believer / Pretender
4.  Easier (feat. Molly Parden)
5.  Where We Stand

6.  Good Mourning (They Can’t Break You Now)
7.  Before the Fall
8.  Green to Blue
9.  Old and Gray
10. Signal Fade

Easier

Sons of Bill - Easier

Artist: Sons of Bill

Title: Easier (featuring Molly Parden)

Release date: 18 May 2018

 

Catalogue no.: VJS94

Format: digital

 

Click here to download hi-res artwork

1.  Easier

Believer / Pretender

Sons of Bill - Believer / Pretender

Artist: Sons of Bill

Title: Believer / Pretender

Release date: 29 June 2018

 

Catalogue no.: VJS93

Format: digital

 

Click here to download hi-res artwork

1.  Believer / Pretender