Many call him crazy, some say he’s the stuff of legend, but I can tell you folks that J.D “The Colonel” Wilkes is every bit that and more. Even though he’s spent the last 14 years as the wild and rambunctious frontman of The Legendary Shack Shakers, Wilkes was unable to resist his urges to create another highly original band with his wife Jessica: The Dirt Daubers. Now touring simultaneously with both groups on the same bill, Wilkes is up to the challenge of bringing his dual musical visions to life night after night.
“We’ve been touring three months solid with no days off at all,” says Wilkes. “It’s more convenient to put the two bands together, rather than having them in competition. I think it confuses people sometimes, having myself open up for myself. Maybe people think I’m an egomaniac or something.”
The main characteristics of the more austere Dirt Daubers are far removed from that of the Shack Shakers, yet Wilkes’ personality and naturally substantial songwriting and performance link them together. “It’s hard to confuse the two. They’re different styles of music and they’re performed very differently as well,” Wilkes says. “The Shack Shakers serve as extreme, sweaty catharsis and then I can sort of claim back my integrity and humanity with the Dirt Daubers. They’re both different kinds of therapy.”
Wilkes has found that, at this point in his life, playing the Dirt Daubers’ more controlled style of old-time music has affected something internally that none of his other creative projects had. “There’s a challenge to performing in an all acoustic string instrument band with all three of us creating this music [in The Dirt Daubers] versus the Shack Shakers, which is more of a composition that I dance in front of, or ornament with harmonica. There I can do anything I want to and the band can keep going, but, with the Dirt Daubers, it relies on me just as much as the other two pieces to keep the song moving.”
Wilkes and the Dirt Daubers were mainly influenced by old hillbilly music such as the Alan Lomax field recordings and Roscoe Holcomb. As time has crept by, other influences have seeped in. “Recently, rockabilly music had begun to sneak in there, stuff like Sun Records, Charlie Feathers, Jerry Lee Lewis. Nothing stays pure for long in my world, there’s too much great music to be a part of and to create,” Wilkes says. “We don’t want to make the same record over and over again, so now the Dirt Daubers are starting their own story arc and morphing into something new.”