LIVE YOU GO IT: Wylie & The Wild West
Tractor Tavern Seattle 1/14
by Deborah Malarek
(First appeared in The Rocket magazine, 1/27/99)
Selling out this two-set, work-night performance midway through the first set and leaving people lined down Ballard Avenue hoping someone might leave early, yodeler Wylie Gustafson and his Wild West were clearly energized by the turnout. And they didn’t disappoint.
Unfortunately, the PA wasn’t working through the first four songs, and Gustafson’s vocals sounded annoyingly muffled. When the unruly equipment suddenly came to life, the singer celebrated with his cover of Tex Owens’ “Cattle Call.” His yodeling, while technically as substantial as it gets, came out sounding light as the wind.
The band drove through 32 tunes during two one-hour sets, a mixture of originals and covers of western ballads and hardcore honky tonk that, while not all vehicles for yodeling, all sounded genuine. Pedal steel guitarist Duane Becker was phenomenal, playing solos both energetic and full of grace. Guitarist Ray Doyle let it rip at all the right moments, as did drummer Garth Whitson. The band was tight and cohesive, and the show was professional and crowd-pleasing, with Gustafson cracking corny country jokes before launching into his next number. Between sets he came out and chewed the fat with the adoring crowd as if we were all his neighbors attending the county fair. And when Gustafson sang “Heaven,” about the happiness of being home on his ranch in Dusty, Washington, or got us all to sing “Goodnight Irene” in unison, swaying back and forth together to keep time, the world, for a while, seemed smaller and sweeter.
© 1999 Deborah Malarek