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Wooden Wand
Blood Oaths of the new Blues
CD on Fire Records
Cat No: FIRECD264 , Stk Ref 79764

Released on: 03 February 2013

Magazine Review
Prolific performer James Toth - the man behind Wooden Wand and its several variations - has had a busy couple of years, letting his country rock urges how with full throat on ‘Briarwood’. A year later and Toth is sounding like a man who’s questioned the directions he’s taken in life, looking at the casualties along the way, but determined at the end to carry on.

On ‘Blood Oaths of the New Blues’, he steps back to the more haunted tones of his earlier work, starting the album off with an extended instrumental intro to ‘No Bed for Beatle Wand’, strumming and picking on acoustic guitar before his plaintive drawl takes over, singling oblique lyrics of luckless fortune, lost ladies and waning determination.

It fades directly into ‘Day This Long’ (the two songs share a track on CD), where he is joined on vocals by keyboardist Janet Elizabeth Simpson. The sombre mood continues as he ponders what or who will keep him sane as he heads past middle age.

Mysterious contemplation gives way to jangling travelogue on ‘Outsider Blues’, where Toth and a companion head off to the Toronto Bluesfest, with a few hopeful notes flecked in the tale of the down-and-out and over-medicated.

The heavy thump and strident strum of the brief ‘Dome Community People (Are Good People)’ gives way to meditation on the death penalty in ‘Dungeon of Irons’. It is followed by ‘‘Supermoon (The Sounding Line)’, a bitter rumination on the price of lies and the urge to escape, or even disappear completely. ‘Southern Colorado Song’ and the character portrait ‘Jhonn Balance’ cover similar ground, but as he draws things to a close with the brief, laconic ‘No Debts’, it sounds like Toth is free and clear of the urge to look back in sorrow.

‘Blood Oaths of the New Blues’ is one for the fans of the downbeat, and should find its way into the collection of fans of Bill Callahan and Vic Chesnutt.

Andrew Carver


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