Wooden Wand’s James Jackson Toth has traversed some rough country—or at least the characters in his songs have—and there’s a jagged edge around his songs that belie the often tender lyrics at the heart of them. The remnants of those journeys are sprinkled throughout the new album Briarwood with the “patches on my jacket and stickers on my car” the most literal and the weary drawl of Toth’s voice the most poignant. You can believe him when he says “nothing else will do.”
Of course, journeys mean movement, which can leave trails of interrupted relationships and missed opportunities. Toth’s ability to detail in almost journalistic fashion the ramifications of the emotional wreckage left behind helps navigate troubled waters without coming off schmaltzy. In the end, “we’re all just passing through.”
Just as Briarwood is a deft balance of lyrical emotionalism and storytelling, the music is equally tasty. Dollops of keyboard and swells of slide guitar carry the songs and take you to the edge of breakdown without ever taking the easy way out. If the beauty of jazz is what’s left unplayed, then Wooden Wand has picked up a thing or two from their smoky colleagues.
Wooden Wand & the Briarwood Virgins – Big Mouth, U.S.A.