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The band’s self-released sophomore album, illusions, follows their self-titled 2016 debut, a pair of EPs and Live at the Old Rock House. Produced, engineered and mixed by Grammy winner David Schiffman, who has worked with an eclectic batch of artists from Johnny Cash and HAIM to System of a Down and Rage Against the Machine, at L.A.’s Sargent Studios and Chicago’s Shirk Studios, the new effort finds the band collaborating and exchanging ideas to further distinguish their unique sound.
The band’s two chief songwriters – Austin Krause-Thompson and Collin Krause – have known each other for six years now, starting when Austin was 19 and Collin 15, and while they each write separately, this time around there was much more working in tandem.
"We’re so much more used to working with each other now,” says Austin, who recently married Collin’s older sister, making them brothers-in-law. "Collin and I are really getting a feel for one another, the way we write together.”
The Way Down Wanderers may sound like some long-forgotten bluegrass band from the Coens’ O Brother Where Art Thou (like that film’s Soggy Bottom Boys), but they prove to be much more than that on illusions, which they describe as "about love, loss and personal evolution.” Indeed, the album explores the tug of memories and the passage of time, set against the eternal clock of Mother Nature, delivered in roots-influenced songs that are also rhythmically modern. And while illusions may be thematically steeped in past folklore, it is also present and alive in a way that jumps off these digital/vinyl tracks to penetrate heart, mind and body.
The track "All My Words” perfectly illustrates The Way Down Wanderers’ distinctive approach, combining a reggae/island beat, a mid-song rap and a closing Foggy Mountain Breakdown-style banjo deal to deliver a song that Austin describes as "trying to be creative when you just don’t feel it.” There are elements of "Cripple Creek” in "Heartland”, a love song written by Collin for his fiancée, Beach Boys vocals in the jazzy, dreamy title track and a Bo Diddley tribal stomp to "She’s Alright”, while "Crooked Pines” and "Moonglow Carolina” compare the magnificence of natural beauty to personal emotion.