Photo courtesy of Sons of Bill Official Website
By Suzanne Herrin
James Wilson, a member of the southern rock and Americana band, Sons of Bill, performed in Saint Luke’s Chapel on March 31. The other band members include James’s brothers Sam and Abe Wilson, along with bassist Seth Green and drummer Todd Wellons. Alone on stage with the pianist, James admitted, “It’s a rare occasion that I get onstage without my brothers.”
Sons of Bill, named for the Wilson brothers’ father, Bill Wilson, was formed in Charlottesville, Virginia, where Bill taught theology at the University of Virginia. Sons of Bill found its way to Sewanee through artist manager, and Sewanee alumnus, Whitaker Elledge (C’ 07). The band’s most recent and successful album, “Love and Logic,” includes hits such as “Fishing Song” and “Bad Dancers.”
James first played “Bad Dancers” which he claims to have written “while watching Adventures of Babysitting on TNT.” Next came “Fishing Song,” which embraced the simple ways of growing up in the South. James prefaced the performance with, “When I wrote it, it was originally about suicide, but now I realize that it is just about fishing.” Another song, “Lost in the Cosmos,” written for Chris Bell, exudes a laid-back feeling, featuring a simple five-note sequence on the guitar. “Angry Eyes” was soulful, passionate, meaningful, and discussed how sometimes in this fast- paced world, where we are too busy to be friendly to each other, we are “lucky if you even catch their angry eyes.” James describes the final song, “Santa Ana Winds” as a “song about arson from the perspective of the arsonist.”
James Wilson teaches a course on Faulkner when he is not performing and says that Faulkner’s words are inspiring. James writes about his own experiences and journeys and quotes Faulkner, saying that, “the human heart in conflict with itself, that alone can make good writing because only that is worth writing about.” Sons of Bill exuded an elegant complexity not commonly found in today’s country music, which sometimes dumbs down life in the South. Indeed, the heart can certainly be found in the music of Sons of Bill.
Fan of Sons of Bill, Summer Menefee (C’ 19) said, “I really like the last song, “Santa Ana Winds,” and I thought he was a charming presence.”
Makenna Morsches (C’19) also commented, “I thought he was witty, charming, and had an interesting past. His music certainly reflected the South and his family.”