Heritage & Harmonies

The Wildmans are making roots music their own.

What drives a group of young, classically trained musicians to play old-time Appalachian melodies? The Wildmans, all in their early twenties, see traditional tunes as anything but old news. “We use American roots as our basis and blend modern styles to create something new,” says Eli Wildman, a two-time first place winner at the Galax Old Fiddlers’ Convention. 

Steeped in the traditions of mountain music, The Wildmans hail from the hills of Floyd, with Eli on guitar and mandolin, his sister Aila on fiddle, and Victor Furtado playing banjo; all three perform vocals. Eli isn’t the group’s only award-winner: at 15, Aila won Best All Around Performer at Galax and took first place in the Old Time Fiddle category, while Furtado nabbed the Steve Martin prize for excellence in banjo and bluegrass. 

With their debut album, Wandering Thoughts, the group stuck to pure Appalachian-based material, but on their eponymous 2020 release, they branched out—reimagining songs by Bob Dylan and the Tedeschi Trucks Band along with roots staples like “Rock of Ages.”

Even as they’ve evolved, The Wildmans haven’t lost their homegrown, front-porch sound. By taking roots music and recasting it in a modern way, they’re infusing the work of their predecessors with the spirit of a new generation. Lately, they’ve been on tour in Colorado and Wyoming and recently took first place in the FreshGrass Festival in North Adams, MA. TheWildmans.net


Check out one of our favorite songs “Midnight in Harlem” on YouTube, from their eponymous 2020 release.

This article originally appeared in the August 2022 issue.

Konstantin Rega
A graduate of East Anglia’s renowned Creative Writing MA, Konstantin’s been published by the Richmond Times-Dispatch, Poetry Salzburg Review, www.jonimitchell.com, the Republic of Consciousness Prize (etc.). He contributes to Publisher Weekly and Treblezine.
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