If you’re enamored of the blatant country pop sounds currently being spawned by hundreds of Nashville acts, you probably won’t like Wylie and the Wild West Show.
This band, which plays the Colfax (Wash.) Summer Festival tonight at 6:30, doesn’t fit the Nashville mold. Front man-guitarist Wylie Gustafson doesn’t pretend that it does.
The only thing Wylie has in Nashville is its independent record label, Cross Three Records.
“We like to distance ourselves from Nashville in terms of music,” said Gustafson in a recent phone interview. “I think we’re more a Bakersfield (Calif.), West Coastsounding band. That’s where our heritage is.”
Wylie and the Wild West Show is, without a doubt, akin to the old Bakersfield sound - a sound pioneered by legends Merle Haggard and Buck Owens.
Because of its style, most of the major labels in Nashville sneer at the band and others like it.
“They’ve always felt threatened by the West Coast, even back in the ‘60s, when Merle Haggard and Buck Owens and those guys were doing their thing,” said the singer, who lives on a farm in Dusty, Wash. “There’s always been sort of a good-ol’-boy mentality in Nashville, where, if you’re not a part of their clique, they don’t want you.”
But Wylie and the Wild West Show does have its fans in Nashville.
“There’s a lot of people in Nashville that want to see things change,” said the singer. “They respect us a lot because we’re keeping the traditions of country music alive.”
Wylie and the Wild West Show have also carved out a niche across the globe. The band has toured Europe and Australia extensively and will head back to Australia in the fall.
The band’s albums, 1994’s “Get Wild” and 1992’s self-titled debut, are triumphant attempts at restoring the rootsy sound of country music. Both put the western back in country and western. “Part of our purpose is to make sure that the roots stay in country music, and it doesn’t get too far away from Hank Williams Sr. or Merle Haggard or the guys who really made country music what it is,” Gustafson explained.
Haggard’s effect on the Wylie band goes beyond being a tremendous influence. The band’s sophomore effort, “Get Wild,” was recorded at Haggard’s Tally Studio in Palo Cedro, Calif.
Haggard even made a vocal guest appearance on the recording, joining Gustafson singing “Ugly Girl Blues.”
Most recently, Wylie and the Wild West Show finished recording its third album, which was produced by Asleep at the Wheel’s Ray Benson.