Wes Tucker,
(self-produced, 2004)

Tradition is the debut CD from Wes Tucker and his band, the Skillets. The music has its roots in folk, but adds in elements of light rock and occasionally some blues. While the group is based in the Washington, D.C., region, after a few listens, one can understand that this CD would have appeal across a much wider area.

The first track, "What I Have," almost seems preternaturally written for survivors of the recent Hurricane Katrina, which destroyed most of New Orleans. Wes sings about how we, as a people, seem to think we're entitled to it all; the more we acquire, the more successful we think we are. But reality is what he sings in the chorus: "For all I have seen and all I believe / For all I've given and all I've received / Who I am is not what I have / What I want is not always what I need." As someone who has lost possessions (especially sentimental items from my childhood) due to multiple hurricanes over the years, I know that what Wes sings can be a hard, but important lesson to learn.

The title track starts out as mellow folk music -- one voice, one guitar. The melody is very simple. About two minutes in to this six-minute song, the tempo picks up and a little funk-based guitar backs up the piece. The song is about how hate is basically a tradition, taught to our children generation after generation. Through the change in the music, Wes cleverly implies that sometimes tradition has to morph in to something different. Sometimes, we need new traditions.

Wes Tucker not only provides lead vocals, but also plays guitar, bass and harmonica. According to the promotional material, "Wes attributes his song-writing and soulful vocal styles to growing up in Southern full Gospel churches and being introduced to the music of Bob Marley, Bob Dylan and Jimi Hendrix at a very young age...." The Skillets include Bryan Washam on lead guitar, bass and backing vocals as well as Dave Rutkowski on drums and keyboard.

While I have really enjoyed this 13-track CD (the music is excellent), I have one issue that has taken me a while to get over. Actually, I've made progress, but I still find it irritating at times. Wes sing-stutters. If you took a line from one of the songs, "Lead me on Lord," Wes might sing "Lee-eed me-e o-o-on lo-o-o-rd." When the man sings, he has a nice voice. If he only sing-stuttered occasionally for emphasis, it wouldn't be bad. But, unfortunately, Wes sing-stutters quite often -- in every single song. I imagine this quirk would not phase most listeners. For me, it was almost an immediate turn-off. I'm glad I gave the album another chance because other than tha-a-at, I truly like Tradition.

I think most people who enjoy folk-rock would enjoy Tradition. The music is good. The band plays well together. When Wes sings, he has a pleasant voice. If you check out Wes' website, you will find that he had a previous album sans Skillets. You will also find samples from Tradition. I think the detour from Rambles.NET is worth a few minutes of your time.

by Wil Owen
5 November 2005

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