It was a crazy Saturday afternoon of last-minute shopping when we turned on the car radio and heard the sounds of salvation. This wasn't the godawful Christmas crap sucking the life out of the other FM airwaves but rather the holiday edition of Robert Moore's Sonic Spectrum
show on KCUR 89.3. Moore's show is a perennial Best Of winner, but what moved us so much during this juiced-up Christmas broadcast was the live performance by Moore's in-studio guests, the Wilders, playing their KC-fermented, 100-percent-grain bluegrass. The group raced through a fiddle-and-banjo-heavy "Born in Bethlehem," then grew almost giddy with the spirit as razor-running fiddles cut through all sorts of other seasonal standards, sharpening "Holly Jolly Christmas" into something Burl Ives never would have recognized. Next was a haunting, a cappella "Rise Up Shepherd and Follow," a version of "Jingle Bells" that added a ripping banjo solo and a wicked yodel, and a "Shortenin' Bread" that sounded freakin' punk. The local ass-kicking was over way too soon, but Moore let us down easy, following the Wilders' performance with Robert Earl Keen's classic "Merry Christmas From the Family," wherein a trailer park grows beautifully silent and holy.