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Old Timey Delight: The Wiyos are so dang crackerjack, ya see! 

click to enlarge What did you expect? A color photo?
  • What did you expect? A color photo?
What did you expect? A color photo?Perhaps the most fitting way to describe the Wiyos, a trio of Brooklyn old-time music specialists, is as follows:

"Hey there, mac. These wild boys of the Wiyos, are real crackerjack wiz kids, ya see. They play the swing and the jive and the rest of it like a real barrel full of bullies, they do. They're sweeter than rhubarb and hotter than the temper on a redheaded Irishman, ya see, mac. They toot and strum and really just keep it dandy, and you can take that right to the bank there sports fan."

That, as you may have guessed, was my best impression of how I've always imagined the average 1930s journalist spoke (gleaned mainly from the few Ruth-area, hardly intelligible baseball game radio broadcasts that I've heard in snippets on ESPN Classic). The Wiyos are not from that era, but they do damn good job of making music that might convince some they were post-Depression troubadours clicking a washboard and plucking a washtub bass on a street corner asking only for pennies and spare johnnycakes.

Parris Ellis plays guitars and banjo in the band and likes to call the music "old timey."

"I use the phrase old timey because it's all encompassing whether it's blues or jazz or rag time, or country stuff," Ellis says.

Regular Source readers know that another Brooklyn folk musician, Langhorne Slim, doesn't much care for that "old-timey" label, which he let us know two months back, but Ellis embraces the stamp. And this seems apt, because the Wiyos aren't exactly one type of music, but rather a collection of styles (anything from swing to blues) sewn together by the time period from which they find their inspiration.

"Back in the '20s and '30s, bands that were playing juke joints and dance halls were playing everything," Ellis says. "There wasn't such delineation between categories like there are now for radio formatting. Back then bands were playing whatever got people dancing and drinking."

The Wiyos' sound is far from the beloved bluegrass that most locals would associate with "old timey" music. On their new self-titled record, the Wiyos display a much older sound that's authenticated by the two-track, no-overdub philosophy the band used when laying down the tracks for the album, which, just like in the old days, only took them a matter of days. On stage, the band adds an element of showmanship that gives their performance a vaudeville feel - as if the act needed more throwback appeal.

"The physical comedy and the visual aspect of the show appeals to three or four generations of people," Ellis says of a Wiyos show, which benefits from the formal miming and clowning training of singer and percussionist Michael Farkas.

Ellis even admits that his 95-year-old grandmother once listened to some of the music that his band is still playing. There's not a whole lot of acts comprised of relatively young men that can appeal to both the hard-to-reach 95-year-old grandmother market as well as the rest of us Johnny-come-latelies. Last time we checked, Panic at the Disco wasn't received all that well on the retirement home circuit.

Real crackerjacks, these Wiyo boys, I tell ya!

The Wiyos
7pm Wednesday, April 16. McMenamins Old St. Francis School, 700 NW Bond St., 382-5174. Free. 


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