20 April 2014

Withered Hand - New Gods

So with an eye on the end of year blogs already (it is almost May, how did that happen!!!!) I have been asking people I know for a few more suggestions instead of the old school one's we have been getting for a while (they will be answered as well). One of the suggestions that came forward was the latest release by Withered Hand and the album "New Gods".  Withered Hand is the stage name of Mr Dan Wilson from Scotland.  According to Wikipedia after being in various bands, on his 30th birthday he was given an acoustic guitar which he is quoted as say it stripped away a lot of baggage.  Now some of that could be true, who know - but it does make a nice story at least.  This is my first introduction to Withered Hand and with the acoustic guitar story I was not expecting Burzum; so before ado can be furthered, let’s find out what the fuss is about here......

Starting with the hypnotic "Horseshoe”, this song might as well have been born with a Stars & Stripes on its behind; it comes across with such a strong Americana flavour and it what a tune!  It just sticks in your head for hours after hearing it.  It has a familiar feel, but is still distinctly new enough to make an immediate impression.  "Black Tambourine" is next and is another slice of song writing that could have easily came from the west coast of America in the 60's or from the Teenage Fanclub in the early 00's.  It is a wonder piece of writing that can make sunshine on the darkest of days.  "Love Over Desire" is a more slow and sedate number, it has a wonderful and mournful.  Like the Monsters Of Folk before him, it is just a lovely tune which make the soul soar towards the heavens, it is a tad too long for my taste but it is a great song none the less.

Next is "King Of Hollywood" which comes like a cross between old school Dire Straits storytelling, early R.E.M. vibration and it has been dosed in bourbon and tobacco.  It is not 100% to my tastes again, but I cannot fault the passion behind the song as the man is still holding my attention even though I am not the world’s biggest fan of this type of thing on this tune.  "California" is a more traditional acoustic number and is not sunny at all.  It is a cold and dark piece of the underbelly of the Americana experience and it also feels and sounds like the blackest moments of Death Cab For Cutie; for these reasons I have to say it is a truly harrowing and brilliant song, not as immediate as "Horseshoe", but very close indeed.  "Fall Apart" is a little more cheerful (probably for the best at this point) and is very pleasant again.  "Between True Love & Ruin" follows this and is a little bit dirty and bitter under the beautiful guitar work.  

"Life Of Doubt" is a very Dylan-esque number which almost falls flat for me to be honest, it is much better than anything that Dylan has ever done and the story of the song is haunting. I can see this being a centre piece for the live show, but I find myself liking it in spite of the Dylan feeling (I'm not really a fan of St Bob). The title track is next and feels like a grower, as I am again not in love with this song at the moment; however I am playing it a lot (and not just for the blog, it is already on my normal walk around playlist).  This is generally the sign that I will one day not stop talking about it.  "Heart Heart" is cut from the same cloth as "Horseshoe" and will be a glorious song in the set.  It is full of passion, fire and the will to dance the night away with the partner of your choice. Ending the album is "Not Alone" and it has a sense of cleaning up after the carnival has left town, especially after the rumpus of "Heart Heart", but it is the obvious ending track with the sing-along ending.

Overall I have to say that this is a well played and enjoyable album which will have its own market.  It is not for me at the moment to be honest, but I have a feeling that it is going to be grower.  I would love to be able to say that it is an instant classic, but this is not the case of this album (for me at least).  If you’re looking for another slice of Americana from Scotland, this could be an album for you.

8 out of ten - Oh, now you have my attention and maybe my money, time and heart

You can purchase the album from Spotify here

You can visit the Withered Hand website here (which has a merch store as well)

You can listen to the album on Spotify here

For our Deezer users, here is a link for you

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