“in recent times, a strain of troubadours – fellas with nothing to prove and no hipster credentials to struggle to keep hold of - have risen to considerable public acclaim in american music, and wooden wand, the alias of tennessee songwriter james jackson toth, fits into this bracket neatly...”
Confidence is a tricky thing. If a musician comes across as too confident, too bolshy, too, well, arrogant, then audiences go colder than it currently is outside (ooh, topical!). No one likes to be told how good the artist they’re listening to is, and certainly not by the artist themselves.
But a little bit of confidence, a swagger say, is a great thing. In recent times, a strain of troubadours – fellas with nothing to prove and no hipster credentials to struggle to keep hold of - have risen to considerable public acclaim in American music, and Wooden Wand, the alias of Tennessee songwriter James Jackson Toth, fits into this bracket neatly.
Sure, there have always been musical renegades, and Townes Van Zandt, Bob Dylan and any one of countless Nashville sweethearts are definitely an influence on Death Seat (the 11th Wooden Wand album, excluding cassette only releases). But Jackson Toth’s world weary, all-knowing drawl really belongs to the same school as Mark Lanegan, Micah P. Hinson, Miles Benjamin Anthony Robinson and even Vic Chesnutt at points.
On ‘I Wanna Make A Difference In Your Life’, a brief track that could come across as overly sentimental (but thanks to Jackson’s voice never does), he sings of a need to influence someone for the better. It could be a child, or it could be us listeners, but either way, it’s a sweet lesson. In fact, rarely does the wisdom of Wooden Wand seem overly preachy. ‘Servant To Blues’ jars a little here perhaps, being a mournful, church-like turn on an otherwise acoustic album, but esewhere little touches such as the drum machine on ‘The Arc’ and the cute references to future family scenarios on ‘Until Wrong Looks Right’ keep this 12-tracker just the right side of overtly mainstream country folk for these ears.