After a year of recording in Muscle Shoals followed by 18 months of waiting out a global pandemic, The Fred Wickham Caravan released Town Without Soul on Kansas City record label Black Site. Wordsmith and architect Fred Wickham and his five master craftsmen - Richard Burgess (bass), Marco Pascolini (guitar), Fred Jr. (mandolin), Sweet Matt Brahl (drums) and Bart Colliver, recently succeeded by newest member, Lin Buck (keys) - blend country, soul and rock and roll into an edifice of sound that can only be called pure Americana. Town Without Soul brings to vinyl the emotion and musicianship audiences across the Midwest have experienced ever since the Caravan formed to support Wickham’s much-heralded solo record, Mariosa Delta, in 2017. Leaving nothing unutilized in his refinedtoolbox of honky tonk and roots rock, Wickham leads the Caravan effortlessly through ten tracks of wrenching heartache, scathing satire and wry observation.
Co-produced by Grammy-winning engineer Jimmy Nutt at his Nutthouse Recording Studio in legendary Muscle Shoals, AL in late 2019, the recording was nearly complete when the pandemic struck. To keep moving forward while the music world shut down, the bandreleased three video singles from the album over the next year - the title track, “Fatbird”, and“If We Ever Happened” - all produced by the Pascolini Brothers, Carlo and Marco. Duringthat time, the band put the finishing touches on the rest of the record. In order to preservethe brilliant recording and engineering work of Jimmy Nutt, Wickham turned to local mastering maestro, Chad Meise at Massive Sound Studios in Shawnee, KS. Notwanting to lose an ounce of fidelity in the translation to vinyl, Black Site handed over acetatecutting duties to master of the lathe, Chris Muth at Taloowa Corp. The result is a work ofsonic beauty that not only flawlessly captures this six-piece outfit’s expertise at a wide rangeof instruments - drums, bass, guitar, piano, organ, pedal steel, mandolin, and accordion - butalso the swingin’ horn section and exquisitely-executed backing vocals from some of Muscle Shoals’ finest studio pros.
Comprised of some of Kansas City’s finest roots musicians, the Caravan originally formed tosupport Wickham’s 2017 solo release Mariosa Delta. Produced and recorded by the late, great Lou Whitney in Springfield, Missouri, the album received widespread critical acclaim both nationally and abroad. No Depression called Mariosa Delta “a sparkling gem of analbum…a great record, part document, part tragedy, all heartbreak,” while PopMatters said the album was “reminiscent of rambling folk and country legends like Dylan and Cash.”
Mariosa Delta featured Wickham’s longtime musical cohort Richard Burgess on upright andelectric bass. In the late 90s and early 2000s Wickham and Burgess made up half of the Kansas City roots rock outfit, Hadacol, who, along with Wickham’s brother Greg, recorded twocritically acclaimed albums and toured extensively across the nation. Greil Marcus, writing for Salon, once called the band’s brand of country “so tough they don’t have to prove it.”
For the Caravan, Wickham and Burgess recruited some of their favorite musicians and best friends to form a six-piece band capable of jumping from one musical style to the next while maintaining a sound that is all their own. Guitar oddity Marco Pascolini lends his unmistakable stylings on electric and pedal steel guitar. Matt Brahl, one of KC’s finestdrummers and an old friend who played with Wickham and Burgess during the final days of Hadacol, jumped right in after original drummer Sam Platt departed. Recent addition, keyboardist and vocalist, Lin Buck mans piano and Hammond organ after Cowboy Bart Colliver rotated out of the line up. Rounding out the ensemble is Wickham’s son, Fred Jr., an accomplished mandolin who grew up with most of the band while they were performing with his dad.