There are very few things I know about James Toth's Wooden Wand. I know that he's incredibly prolific and a dead serious songwriter. An artist that hasn't just magically hit on the stuff, he's put in the hard long work. It feels like hard fought talent, Townes Van Zandt hard and I'm willing to go that far in finding a comparison for James. He can sit on stage with a single guitar and it's going to be a compelling performance.
A hard, slow strummed electric opens A-Side's "When Your Stepfather Dies" I always forget what a great vocal he's got as well, there's no overlooking it. He can pick moments to hold back and then solidly delivering on substantial melodies. Like Owen Ashworth from Casiotone's style in a higher register with a huge range of delivery hollaring to half whispering. Setting his somber scene all the way down to the temperature, it's unbelievable this is a single guitar in this rolling ocean rhythm about reminiscing and regrets. The lyrics for this one are the only ones on the reverse of the insert and spelled out like this they hit even harder. If these aren't purely autobiographical then he gets so deep into this character it makes no difference.
"Country Graveyard Soil" starts out with a solitary guitar and his slightly gravelly vocal. It's purely born, after months of hard labor out in the back barn with a couple of friends creating for themselves. But they want to share these highly personal sentiments after all with no expectation of having the attention. It's quietly biding its time, if you don't get it now, you're going to come around in a vulnerable moment. So much room to breathe in these tracks, the abstract imagery about loss and turning things around are just as good as when he's as specific as the first track. Devoting himself to the altar of an acoustic, one of the few people that can get away with it.
A faster strummed rhythm opens on B-Side's "Free Seeds" with that single mic capturing an open strum in a room, this one sort of sounding like Pink Reason with a similar tense desperation.
songs don't get written
in loud and crowded bars
This is Mark Lannegan dark, someone kept his truck and it's time to get out of this bar. Less of that reverb echo on this side, closser and more into his space. He can get to those moments without sounding sorry for himself, with the feeling of the long road. Maybe that's what I hear in Cleaning the Mirror too, knowing a little of what he's been through. Gets catchy with no right to make you sing along with this, except maybe its the only way to look back on this situation now.
On lavender vinyl from 25 Diamonds Records with a spraypainted style two color sleeve, this one screen printed, all tracks exclusive to this release.