Shoulder to the Wheel CD Release
With his knack for storytelling and getting to the heart of the matter, Grass Valley singer/songwriter Peter Wilson has released ‘Shoulder to the Wheel,” his second album and first in 30 years. Wilson and local musicians will perform 13 original songs from the debut album Saturday, June 7 at the Center for the Arts. With Wilson’s vocals and guitar, the concert will feature a “stellar band” made up of good friends such as guitarist Tom Menig, Scottish fiddler Alasdair Fraser, drummer Mark McCartney, guitarist John Girton, keyboardist Craig Thomas and bassist Charlie Faber.
For the past three decades, Wilson has become a fixture in the local music scene for his enthusiastic support of the arts, promoting concerts, hosting radio shows and open mic nights and performing at clubs and festivals. “He wants everyone to play music… He’s someone who’s always encouraging everyone,” said Daniel DeWayne of the California World Fest, an event Wilson has performed and promoted.
A regular weekend solo act in downtown bars and restaurants, Wilson is known for performing familiar tunes and standards of all kinds from folk to country to blues and jazz. “I play in bars and restaurants almost every weekend but only rarely to people who are sitting in rows listening. It’s a very different thing to play in concert. I used to do it a lot in the 1980’s and I’m really looking forward to getting a chance to do original material to a concert audience.”
As a young man, Wilson began touring and performing in 1978 living on little and traveling to coffeehouses, colleges, trains, folk shows and nightclubs all across the U.S. and Canada. After moving to Northern California in the 1980’s, Wilson married and settled down in Grass Valley to raise his children. Now his children are grown and Wilson figured the timing was right to record and get back to concert touring. “Part of getting this record out is getting back to playing concerts,” Wilson said.
The art of storytelling through roots music
With his acoustic guitar and genuine singing voice, most of what Wilson does is intimate unamplified music you’d expect to hear with a circle of friends in the living room or around the campfire. From early on, Wilson was intrigued by the power of song to sway emotions. He draws from the themes of “life in general” when writing songs, and tends to choose words that “get under people’s skin.” “I like to tell stories with songs,” he said.
East coast born and raised, Wilson has performed at the Speakeasy in Greenwich Village and recorded songs for the legendary Fast Folk Music Magazine. Other venues include the Great American Music Hall in San Francisco, the Palms Playhouse in Davis and the Backstage in Seattle. Wilson has opened for Robert Cray, Etta James, David Lindley, Maria Muldaur and Mose Allison along with folk artists such as John McCutchen, Tom Paxton, Jesse Winchester and Jerry Jeff Walker.
Influences of folk, blues and jazz weave their way into the music of Peter Wilson who says he tends to gravitate toward roots music, anything with a true Americana sound. “He’s a very eclectic song writer. His new album is pretty indicative of that,” said Tom Menig, who recorded at his home-based Sundial Studios with Wilson for much of ‘Shoulder to the Wheel.’
Menig who performs with the Grateful Dead cover band, The Dead Beats, is the father of rising folk star, Alela Diane and recently returned from a European tour of 16 countries with his daughter and Seattle born indie folk band, Fleet Foxes.
“It’s quite a challenge to get Alasdair Fraser and Tom Menig to both be available on the same night because they both tour across the U.S. and Europe almost constantly,” Wilson said.
In the works since 2009, ‘Shoulder to the Wheel’ is a compilation of old and newer songs. “I had a lot to choose from because I’ve been writing for a long time,” Wilson said. The recording was mastered by Oz Fritz known in the music industry for his work with Tom Waits and others.
Six songs stem from “Troubador Camp,” a week-long jam session retreat held at a cabin in the woods every year with old musician friends, Moe Dixon and Mountain John Hilligoss.
Wilson has performed with Menig and Charlie Faber in the rockabilly band, Chillbillies, who will perform an Elvis birthday show on Jan. 6, the day before Wilson’s CD concert at the Center for the Arts. Wilson performed with Mark McCartney and Craig Thomas twice in the past year during the Leonard Cohen tribute concerts, “A Thousand Kisses Deep.” On and off for 30 years, Wilson has played with John Girton, known for his music with Maria Muldaur and as the original guitar player in Dan Hicks and the Hot Licks.
Even as a small boy, Wilson’s life was swept up by music’s enchanting spell. His mother played the piano and his father sang in the church choir. He was playing Puff the Magic Dragon on the ukulele at the age of 6. “I’ve always been playing music one way or another,” Wilson said.
"Peter writes, plays and sings wonderfully well and his songs
are filled with humor, heart and conscience.
He's a philosopher-wise-guy
who hits the nail on the head without bending it." - U. Utah Phillips
widely regarded as the area's best songwriter, Wilson
is at his best performing live." - The Union
he's good..." - Jessie Winchester
good job." - David Lindley
want to sound like Peter." - Antsy McClain - Trailer Park Troubadours
...the demi-comic, folkish singer from Grass Valley delighted Palms audiences
ingenuous mix of Arlo Guthrie, Bob Weir and sheer originality." - Sacramento Bee
"Wilson is a strong live performer. He can perform original material
to an audience numbed into apathy
and make them listen. ...he'll get outrageous
and he'll get away with it." - Peter Berkow, Chico Times
" A strong first entry, plenty of diversity and some good originals."
- Chris Lunn, Victory Music Folk & Jazz Review
"One of the great guys..." - Paul Emery, North Colombia Folk Festival