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Wooden Wand - James and the Quiet

  by Malcolm Carter

published: 6 / 9 / 2007

Wooden Wand - James and the Quiet
Label: Ecstatic Peace
Format: CD


Outstanding collection of folk and swamp blues from apparently the last album from Wooden Wand, which is the project of Ameircan musician James Toth, and has been produced by Lee Ranaldo from Sonic Youth

The story goes that James Jackson Toth wanted to go beyond the sound he is known for with Wooden Wand & The Vanishing Voice (which is a musical collaboration between Toth and the New York band Vanishing Voice); the sound which has been called at various times either psych-folk or freak-folk, you get the idea; taking the folk sounds of the sixties and adding a contemporary twist to it. For this album Toth has employed the talents of different musicians from those in The Vanishing Voice ( in part anyway) including Lee Ranaldo (Sonic Youth) who apart from playing guitar and piano also produces these songs. Toth says he had spent time listening to Waylon Jennings and Kris Kristofferson and wanted to make his 'Imperial Bedroom' ( Elvis Costello ) or a ‘I’m Your Man’ ( Leonard Cohen ), in other words to follow his own path and not deliver something that people had come to expect from him. You’ll have to ask him if he feels that he has accomplished what he set out to do but what Toth has done without any doubt is to produce an outstanding collection of songs which takes folk music and mixes it with a curious strain of swamp blues while all the time wrapping quite beautiful melodies around these sounds. Adding a certain spookiness to his folk leanings has paid off and mention should be made of fellow Wooden Wand & The Vanishing Voice lead vocalist Jessica Toth who also adds her vocals here. The album would be a lot less appealing without those female vocals acting the perfect foil to the gruffness of Toth’s voice. Jessica practically steals the show on songs like ‘Spitting At The Cameras’. Add to that the fact that she also co-arranged the album with Lee Ranaldo and one wonders if the album would have been so good without Jessica’s contribution. Many of these songs have been become live favourites over the past year or so and maybe that’s why they work so well, anything that didn’t work in the context of each song has obviously been knocked into shape by now and there are some quite simply breathtaking sounds scattered throughout these songs, the guitar line running through ‘We Must Also Love The Thieves’, for example, is simply stunning and when the guitar solo comes in it lifts the song onto a completely new level. That song alone is worth the price of the album; it’s Toth at his absolute best. Similarly there is a musical line running through ‘Delia’ (some kind of keyboard?) which shines through and grips the attention long before the lyrics or Toth’s vocals register. There is enough going on in each and every song to maintain interest on repeated plays and, having lived with this album for some time now, it never fails to throw up something new with each listen. There is talk that ‘James & The Quiet’ is going to be the last album released under the Wooden Wand name although Toth will obviously still record, if this is the case it’s another strange move on Toth’s part as this collection of songs is surely the one that will introduce the talents of this remarkable artist to a wider audience.

Track Listing:-
1 The Pushers
2 In a Bucket
3 Spitting At the Cameras
4 Delia
5 We Must Also Love the Thieves
6 The Invisible Children
7 Blood
8 Blessed Damnation
9 Future Dream
10 James & the Quiet
11 Wired To the Sky

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