[2 September 2014]
Toronto’s the Wooden Sky are something of veterans in the Canadian music circuit, having released three previous LPs and being signed to indie label Black Box. However, for their latest outing, Let’s Be Ready, the group is striking out on its own, having formed the boutique label Chelsea Records. This album is the label’s inaugural release. And it’s quite captivating, right from the first upbeat single, “Saturday Night”, to sultry closer “Don’t You Worry About a Thing”. The group underwent a few lineup changes, just to shake things up, and the buoyancy of playing with new people has infused this disc with an unbridled energy. Frontman Gavin Gardiner has an appealing warble and croon of a voice, which gives these roots/country rock songs a kick of vitality. He also comes across as a natural raconteur, which gives these songs flavour. The group also has something of a signature sound that isn’t quite heard an awful lot these days. The 10 songs that make up Let’s Be Ready have a very ‘70s soft rock vibe to them in their quietest moments.
And yet, it’s the quiet songs that are less immediate and slows down the pace of the album somewhat, particularly in the record’s second half. The title track, in particular, is quite languid. However, there’s a great deal of variance between the material, which should make this likable to some listeners. Where the Wooden Sky really works is when they’re unfurling searing rock numbers. Opening cut “Saturday Night” might just be the disc’s standout track. With its galloping drums and shimmery guitar, the song cuts like a knife in terms of sheer emotion and catchiness. The reverb strum of the shuffling “Our Hearts Were Young” is also immediately engaging. “When the Day Is Fresh and the Light Is New” comes across as a cousin to a Tragically Hip song. Overall, Let’s Be Ready is quite pleasing and should be an essential purchase for those into Canadian country rock. And more of this stuff is on the way. The group plans to spend November and December of this year working on their next album using an eight-track tape machine Gardiner recently purchased. If Let’s Be Ready is any indication, that record should be something to revel in as this is a group that is pleasurable to listen to in their newfound independence.