“… a blend of 60s soul, New Orleans swagger, and good old rock n’ roll… The Wandering Sons play with the kind of heart that’ll woo any crowd.”
Like many artists before him, Cory Chisel first connected with the power of song – and the spellbinding possibilities of live performance – through the music he heard in church. The gospel’s rich vernacular of loss and redemption also informed his innate poetic sense and lyrical range. “For most of my life,” he says, “my dad was a Baptist minister, so I learned a lot about being a showman, and I learned a lot about music. Many of the hymns from church still are the most beautiful songs I know. I’m thankful for growing up where stories and the pursuit of happiness were on everybody’s mind. I think I’m still trying to achieve the same euphoria I felt at a very young age, when I would be completely taken over by these rhythms and these sounds and these stories.”
An equally potent influence on Chisel’s worldview and wellspring of musical storytelling is the American heartland from which he hails. Based in Appleton, WI, where he’s lived for almost twenty years. His family’s roots, on both sides, reach about 500 miles north and west to Babbitt, Minnesota – not far from Bob Dylan’s hometown of Hibbing – and neighboring Ely, beside the pristine Boundary Waters, the largest wilderness preserve east of the Rockies. The vast, open spaces and clear, deep lakes of the wild north are ingrained in Chisel’s songs, which sound as if they come to him as naturally as breathing.
In an upbringing where he was largely sheltered from pop music, Chisel’s soul deep fluency with music comes in great measure from always having played it with his family, for as long as he can remember. One of his grandfathers had nine brothers and, he notes, “they’re all great guitar players, and half of them play harmonica too.” He also cites his Uncle Roger, a blues musician – whose epic record collection exposed him to Howlin’ Wolf, Sonny Boy Williamson, Sam Cooke, Aretha Franklin, Otis Redding, Robert Johnson, Johnny Cash, Tom Waits, Bob Dylan and countless others – as a chief source of inspiration. “He was a musical force,” says Cory. “I always felt like I possessed something similar, that I understood the exorcism I saw him receiving through music.”
Death Won’t Send A Letter, Chisel’s 2009 full-length debut for RCA Records is plainspoken, intimate and soulful, Chisel’s songs have an unadorned, lived-in beauty, free from clutter and pretense. The songs seek to make sense of the world outside and human desires within – reconciling the call of the road and a longing for home, literally and figuratively. With Grammy-winning producer Joe Chiccarelli (The Shins, The White Stripes) at the helm Cory’s songs have transformed into lush and nuanced recordings that never sacrifice Chisel’s emotional vulnerability or his rich and unique vocal tone.
2009’s Death Won’t Send A Letter was recorded at Los Angeles studio Sunset Sound and Blackbird Studios in Nashville, TN with long time collaborator Adriel Harris. The band included “Little Jack” Lawrence (The Raconteurs, Dead Weather), Patrick Keeler (The Raconteurs, The Greenhornes) on drums and Carl Broemel from My Morning Jacket on guitar.
The album, received great critical acclaim both in the US and abroad. Chisel was named one of Rolling Stone Magazine’s “Best New Artists.” In 2010 he appeared along side Tom Waits, Jim James, Andrew Bird and more on the award winning Preservation Hall Jazz Band’s album, Preservation. He has toured the world including appearances at Glastonbury, Newport Folk Festival and Bonnaroo.