Album review: Wooden Wand, Blood Oaths of the New Blues

By Graham Reid

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Album cover for Blood Oaths of the New Blues. Photo / Supplied
Album cover for Blood Oaths of the New Blues. Photo / Supplied

In the real world "a songwriter's songwriter" usually translates into "respected, but no commercial potential". Wooden Wand - aka James Jackson Toth - has been been described as having "that picaresque quality Dylan had in his heyday" by Swans' Michael Gira, and some have cited Neil Young, Springsteen and Cohen in reviews. Hard to make those references on this album, but he's certainly in a lineage of emotionally probing alt-country writers - Townes Van Zandt in places - although many might not get there after the opener No Bed for Beatle Wand/Days This Long which runs close to 12 minutes of downbeat rumination.

It's actually very good, but someone who wasn't "a songwriter's songwriter" might have put that at the end and kicked off with the more manageable country melancholy and pop-length of Supermoon.

There are few "up" moments here but the weary languor makes for a coherent mood piece. Wand/Toth - who has label-hopped, perhaps because no one quite knows what do with him - is a distinctive writer with a compelling delivery and a sure, understated melodic touch.

The brooding, poetic track (and title) Outsider Blues sums this up. Worth investigating.

Stars: 3.5/5
Verdict: Music for a Sunday morning coming down

- TimeOut / elsewhere.co.nz

- NZ Herald

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