Wooden Wand – Blood Oaths Of The New Blues – LP
Blood Oaths Of The New Blues is the Sunday morning ‘wake and bake’ record to last year’s critically acclaimed Briarwood LP’s Saturday night revelry. With his once-every-five-years proper rock and roll record out of his system, James Jackson Toth – AKA Wooden Wand – retreated back to Alabama to record this spooky, heady follow-up, an album that demands close attention. This is music for quiet reflection and shares a worldview more in line with noise and doom metal artists than it does summer of love casualties and beach burnouts.
Every Wooden Wand album trounces expectations, and Blood Oaths Of The New Blues, thankfully, doesn’t break that trend.
Many of the musicians on Briarwood return here, making this the only solo Wooden Wand album to feature the same consecutive players and the first Wooden Wand solo album to be recorded in the same consecutive studio (Ol Elegante in Homewood, AL) as the previous album, somewhere along the line Wooden Wand became a BAND. David Hickox, Janet Elizabeth Simpson, Jody Nelson, Brad Davis and Les Nuby III make up the band, and it’s a testament to their versatility to note that this same group who pulled off slow-burn rock epics like “Motel Stationery” and Stones-y, soulful jams like the cover of Jim Ford’s classic “Big Mouth USA” last time around could so artfully and effortlessly create a follow-up that does not contain a single guitar solo, snare hit, or country affectation. Harmonium, organ and disembodied vocals are the order of the day here, with back-masking and subliminal messages added to enhance the trip. (We really didn’t want to spoil that last part for you, but we at Fire Records have been advised by our legal staff to offer full disclosure on such matters to avoid any litigation resulting from misadventure. Sorry, James!).
Like spiritual cousins Nico’s Desertshore, Peter Hammil’s A Black Box, or Dino Valente’s s/t solo album, Blood Oaths Of The New Blues represents a break with the past with an eye on an uncertain future, and is the boldest, most adventurous and most intensely personal album of Toth’s long career. The new focus on texture and sonic space does not, however, come at the expense of Toth’s inimitable lyrical style. For proof, see the “alt couple” travelogue of “Outsider Blues,” the menacing firsthand account of the real-life Doherty Gang’s crime spree in “Southern Colorado Song,” or the suicidal yearnings of the protagonist seeking to drown himself in “Supermoon (The Sounding Line).”
Elsewhere, Toth evokes the weary spirits of state-executed men and women in “Dungeon Of Irons,” pays tribute to one of his musical heroes in “Jhonn Balance,” and even glimpses, for a moment, a sort of hope, via the sweet love song “No Debts.” Warring factions on each side of Wooden Wand’s generally eclectic fanbase can finally call a cease fire – this is the first Wooden Wand album that should equally satisfy both the fans of Toth’s acerbic rambler narratives as well as older fans who miss losing themselves in the fried, psychedel