Essential New Music: J.D. Wilkes’ “Fire Dream”

Oh, what whimsy J.D. Wilkes can pack into a svelte 10-song solo debut. The Legendary Shack Shaker has outdone himself with this offering of gypsy funk wrapped in a cavalcade of musical stylings like a birthday cake of fireworks, each song a fiery report in its own right or, better yet, rite. The oddball creative-genius Colonel is on full display—a scholar of all things hillbilly, jazzy, bluesy, fiddley. He’s Paducah, Ky., in musical form.

Fire Dream is a journey through the center of the man. Each is song personally whittled with a half-broken pen knife bouncing between operatic and cinematic to dingy and dusty to crystalline opulence. The album incites a tap and clog, stomp and stammer, and a beatnik’s prose all within the same audible journey yet fits perfectly together like some twisted jigsaw puzzle. Theoretically, this shouldn’t work, but it does in spades. And its constant motion is terribly addicting and moving.

—Scott Zuppardo