Sound check: Tyne and the Fastlyne hard to fit into a musical genre

When asked to describe Tyne and the Fastlyne’s musical sound, Wiggus paused.

“That’s a tough one,” he said.

Bill Wilgus – who has been known to most people as just “Wiggus” for the past 20 years – plays guitar and mandolin for Tyne and the Fastlyne, joining banjo player and vocalist Tyne Palazzi, John “JK” Kennedy on upright bass and drummer Jack Wilkinson, though Kevin Lowe has lately been filling the percussion role, due to Wilkinson’s recent shoulder surgery.

“[Our sound] sort of depends on what song we’re playing,” Wilgus said. “I play mandolin half of the night and electric guitar half of the night. Our band can go from being a bluegrass outfit to a full-out rock band with the flip of a switch. If you had to classify it, I guess it would be ‘new grass,’ coming out of that [bluegrass] tradition, but doing new stuff with it.”

Tyne and the Fastlyne will play a free concert at 6 p.m. June 8 at the Hicks Memorial United Methodist Church, 1211 Third Ave. in Duncansville. The group Jack and Lily will also perform that night. Tyne and the Fastlyne will also perform in concert in July at Canal Basin Park in Hollidaysburg, Palazzi said.

They mostly perform in the State College area, she said, but this summer, they will perform a little more around Altoona.

Like Wilgus, Palazzi was at a loss to describe Tyne and the Fastlyne’s sound.

“It’s not one set style,” she said. “It’s kind of a mixture. It’s hard to describe. I guess we’re a progressive, Celtic, bluegrass rock band. Most of it’s upbeat. It gets your foot tapping.”

The band’s unique sound comes in part from Palazzi’s unique work on the banjo.

“I don’t play Earl Scruggs, straight bluegrass,” said Palazzi, a Roaring Spring native who now resides in Lakemont. “My style is melodic. I don’t do banjo licks.”

“It’s a modern-type banjo – a Tony Furtado, Bela Fleck-type,” Wilgus added. “It’s a very melodic, beautiful style, but she can really burn, too.”

Palazzi began playing banjo at 6 years old, when she came across one at a flea market with her grandfather, Tom Snyder.

“I wanted it, and I don’t know why,” she laughed. “Pap said if he bought it, I had to learn how to play it.”

Palazzi, 30, took lessons throughout her childhood and high school, including monthly lessons from Furtado, who she met when she was 9 years old and attending Bluegrass Week of the Augusta Heritage Summer Program at Davis and Elkins College in West Virginia.

In 2003, Palazzi was at an old-time music jam at Hicks Memorial United Methodist Church when she met Pat McGinnis, who was in a band then called Dusk ’till Dawn.

“I was learning how to play old-time and clawhammer banjo, and Pat was working on playing the upright bass,” she said. “He heard me sing and asked me if I would audition for the band. I was interested, so we got together and auditioned for each other.”

The band changed its name to Tyne and the Fastlyne, with original members Palazzi, McGinnis, Wilkinson and Mark Ross on guitar.

Wilgus, who is originally from around Pittsburgh and now lives in State College, later replaced Ross.

“I was friends with everybody, so Pat asked me to come on,” he said. “Pat eventually left, because he was so busy, so I brought John in. I had played with him for many years.”

The current incarnation of Tyne and the Fastlyne has been together for “a good eight years,” Wilgus said.

“Everyone in the band is very accomplished,” he said.

But when asked what makes the band special, Wilgus simply stated: “Tyne.”

“You have to see Tyne,” he said. “You have to hear her. She’s so humble, she won’t say anything about herself, but Tyne has power in her voice.

“She can sing sweet as a bird or belt it out, and her banjo is ferocious. We’re there to make her sound good.”

The band has not recorded an album – yet.

“We’re trying to remedy that,” Palazzi said. “With all of our schedules – most of the guys are in other bands, too – it’s hard to schedule. I would like to do something, though.”

Wilgus, too, would like to record an album.

“We’ve been talking about it for so long,” he said. “It’s just the problem of raising the money to do it. I think it’s going to happen, though.

“Maybe we could start a Kickstarter campaign, raise a couple grand.”

Mirror staff writer Cory Dobrowolsky can be reached at 946-7428.