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Wooden Wand - Briarwood

  by Andrew Carver

published: 15 / 10 / 2011

Wooden Wand - Briarwood
Label: Fire Records
Format: CD


Surprising latest album from Wooden Wand, the project of avant-garde artist James Jackson Toth, which finds him playing Southern roots rock to excellent effect

James Jackson Toth has been making off-kilter folk records for several years with a revolving cast of accomplices. After a positive experience recording with Birmingham country rockers The Gum Creek Killers, Toth decided to recruit its various members for his next project, along with longtime ally Brian Lowery and Jody Nelson. He dubbed this backing band the Briarwood Virgins and his latest album ‘Briarwood’. Thse expecting Toth to explore the minimalist folk evidenced on ‘Harem of The Sundrum and the Witness Figg’ or the trad folk of ‘Second Attention’ should look elsewhere - it’s one of the most straight-ahead and electrified albums he’s made, with a definite southern feel ladled on top. The sizzling slide of ‘Scorpion Glow’ (and other tracks), the honeyed backing vocals on ‘Wither Away’ and the general excess of distorted guitar would be right at home on albums by folks like Mofro, Drive-By Truckers and Bloodkin, as would the downhome sentiments of ‘Be My Friend Mary Jo’. By the time Toth is singing about ’68 Shelby’s on ‘Good Time Man’ while twanging on an acoustic guitar you know he’s really gone south - and it suits him fine. The cover of ‘Big Mouth U.S.A.’ would sit right at home on John Ford’s legendary unissued album, though the ripping dual guitars on the outro might confound the label heads even more than the original did. Toth’s originals keep it good company, as does his drawl. A dry sense of humour is in evidence on album closer ‘DNR Waltz’ (that’s short for Do Not Resuscitate), and its reference to kids named after wrestlers and other modern-day horrors would probably have drawn a laugh from Ford. Some of Toth’s fans might find ‘Briarwood’ to be unusually normal for an artist who had his start in New York’s avant-garde folk scene, but fans of roots rock (with a slight twist) will find it most worthy of multiple spins.

Track Listing:-
1 Winter In Kentucky
2 Scorpion Glow
3 Wither Away
4 Be My Friend, Mary Jo
5 Big Mouth USA
6 Good Time Man
7 Motel Stationery
8 Passin' Thru
9 The DNR Waltz

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