By Matt Wickstrom
Music connoisseurs of all ages packed the Green Lantern on Thursday night, moving and grooving to the signature Kentucky bluegrass of The Wooks. The show was the quintet’s debut at the rustic bar on Lexington’s north side, and the second for banjo player Arthur Hancock, who was sidelined with back injuries for the later half of 2015.
According to Hancock, his back problems stem from working on a farm for years, cliff jumping at the Gorge and flipping a car when he was younger. For much of Thursday’s show the banjo picking front man of The Wooks was limited to sitting down while he played.
“It was terrible”, said Hancock. “I didn’t play banjo for almost three months. I had to crawl to the bathroom and couldn’t shower. I feel like I’m coming back from the ashes right now. It was one of those situations in life where if you told me I could work hard and I would get better than it would be easy, but instead I just had to lay there. All the surgery does is temporarily alleviate the pain without solving the problem.”
Even with Hancock not being able to perform until recently, The Wooks appeared to never miss a beat during the entirety of their show Thursday night. Cover tunes a-plenty were thrown in with The Wooks original cuts, including John Prine’s “Living in the Future”; “Atlantic City” by Bruce Springsteen; “Ramble on Rose” and “Franklin’s Tower” from the Grateful Dead; and a twangy cover of The Beatles “Dear Prudence” to round out their first of two sets.
Guitarist C.J. Cain could be heard proclaiming after one mandolin-heavy song, “Sam Bush ain’t got nothing on this guy except a really good beard”, in regards to band mate Galen Green.
The band has returned to Nashville this week to finish up recording their debut album, which they hope to have out by the summer.
“C.J. and Galen both wrote some awesome songs for this record”, said Hancock. “Getting to work with Alison Brown, who was my banjo teacher in college, was a real privilege. She’s a monster in the acoustic music scene, so to work with her on a personal level is amazing.”
Hancock said his favorite song on the group’s upcoming album is “Wookiefoot Stomp”, which he says he wrote one day on the steps of his cabin, and later brought in front of the band, adding bits and pieces to it over the length of their recording sessions until it was musical perfection.
The Wooks were recently announced as part of the lineup for this year’s Festival of the Bluegrass, taking place June 9-12 at the Kentucky Horse Park. The festival, which was started by Bob Cornett in June of 1974, have been jumping off points for many outstanding bluegrass musicians in its 40+ year history, including Bela Fleck, Ricky Skaggs and Alison Krauss.
To find out more about The Wooks, visit wookoutamerica.com.