Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion Preview: C.J. Cain Of The Wooks Talks Pandemic Silver Linings, Upcoming Album, & More

With the Bristol Rhythm and Roots Reunion festival right around the corner, the Kentucky-based bluegrass band The Wooks are gearing up to bring their unique brand of Americana back to the Downtown Bristol stage.  

Formed in 2014, The Wooks are currently composed of C.J. Cain (guitar, vocals) Harry Clark (mandolin), George Guthrie (banjo), and Allen Cooke (dobro). The group manages to expertly interweave traditional bluegrass with elements of folk, rock n’ roll, and Appalachian roots music, and the result is a fresh and exciting sound with fun, memorable melodies.

With Cain’s soulful strumming and passionate singing, Clark’s steady and precise mandolin, Guthrie’s quick pickin’ banjo, and Cooke’s effortless dobro playing, the group masterfully conjures images of old country roads, rolling rural hills, and sipping whiskey at the creek. All things considered, it’s not hard to see why they have garnered so much attention since their formation.

The band has toured tirelessly over the years, and have played many top-tier festivals such as Bonnaroo, Blue Ox, Mountain Stage, and ARISE. They have also accrued several notable accomplishments, including winning the RockyGrass Band Competition in 2016, placing in the finals for the Telluride Bluegrass Festival Band competition in 2017, and being nominated for the IBMA Momentum award in 2017. Additionally, their first album ranked #5 on the Roots Music Report Progressive Bluegrass chart for a year, and their second album debuted at #2 on the Billboard Bluegrass chart. 

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While they were unable to tour during 2020 due to the pandemic, they used their newfound free time to record a new record slated for release later this year. You can catch them at the Cumberland Square Park stage on Sunday at noon. 

We had the opportunity to chat with Cain about their upcoming festival appearances, their new material, and more.

Have you felt the past 18 months has helped or hindered your creative process and artistic drive as a band? Neither?

The last 18 months have been difficult to say the least, however it has allowed us to record a new album without the stress of being on the road while trying to record, which is at least somewhat of a silver lining to the situation. 

And has the band been back in the swing of regional shows and/or light touring? If so where?

We are playing a good amount, but a streamlined touring effort has still proven to be difficult in these times. We will just have to wait and see how it all develops and hope that we can tour safely in the future. 

Speaking of shows: you guys will be playing the Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion festival next weekend. How does it feel to be playing an event of this magnitude again?

It always feels good to be on a festival that has a history like Bristol. Some of the finest acts in the country have taken the stage there and we are thankful to be a part of it. 

You all are no strangers to playing larger festivals. Having previously played the Bristol Rhythm and Roots festival, how does it compare to other festivals you’ve played and what do you like about it?

Like I said Bristol is one of the best festivals in the country focusing on roots music. The thing I like about it is it’s unique in that it blends with the city versus being on a festival ground or out in a field, it gives it a different feel for sure. 

What other artists might you be excited to see perform or hang with at Bristol?

If Birds Could Fly, Birdie is one of the best singers, Sierra Ferrell, Town Mountain, John R. Miller all these acts are some of the finest acts in our industry. 

Your website mentions that you have a new album set to release sometime this fall. Care to divulge some info on that? 

We will be making an announcement soon- it won’t be out in fall, but its coming we promise.

What else might you have in store for fall, and frankly, the rest of the year?

We will be releasing a lot of new content to support the upcoming album, so be on the look out for new music from The Wooks.

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