[4 June 2014]
The last we heard from Wooden Wand—née James Jackson Toth—was way back in 2013, when he released Wooden Wand and the World War IV, a plugged-in album that might as well have been Side B of Rust Never Sleeps, when you compare it with the mellower folk/psych excursions of previous offerings like Blood Oaths of the New Blues. Toth’s latest, Farmer’s Corner is a return to Wooden Wand’s bread and butter: elliptical, leisurely paced gothic folk-rock, custom-made for slate-gray Sunday afternoons.
Written, recorded and produced on the road when the spirit struck Toth, six of the album’s nine tracks clock in at north of five minutes, though nothing here feels jammy or excessive, as Toth spins cosmic twang on the opener “Alpha Dawn” (triangulating Beachwood Sparks, Mark Pickerel and the Anomoanon). A web of interlocking guitars also appears on the wintry “When the Trail Goes Cold” and “Dambuilding” is a music-creation metaphor. And while that all sounds fairly bleak, Toth brings a genuine warmth to the proceedings, whether it’s the harmonica on “Sinking Feelings”, the hopeful bass line of “Home + Horizon” or the loping closer “Gone to Stay”, where the notion of doing what you want because judgmental strangers, bad dreams and memories will all suffer the titular fate, is examined with a knowing smile.
The lone misstep here is when Toth breaks the album’s otherwise-hypnotic spell with the out-and-out rocker “Adie”, but even that can be forgiven. He’s been doing this for nearly a decade, riding the neo-folk wave of the mid-aughts and Farmer’s Corner is a great place to start investigating a quiet master of a quiet genre.