Magpie Brain & Other Stories
Here is the second solo album from Will Wood. It’s a gem – containing a range of emotions, meditations, diary entries and a couple of knees-up country-folk bangers too. A wide range of song crafting on display here, and whether Wood’s deftly finger-picked guitar and calm voice are to the fore, or it’s the sympathetic harmony and backing vocals of Reb Fountain, Dave Khan’s multi-instrumental mastery and production and mastering skills of Ben Edwards and Ben Delaney the songs are always the stars. All of the players know this and are fitting in around a set of tunes that more than once bring to mind the gentler, contemplative moments that Paul Kelly so effortlessly conjures.
Here, Wood sings of hoping for the rain and of travelling through New York, of connecting via transport (Trains) and not connecting, or at least only temporarily connecting with people (Haggerston) and whether he’s writing his own version of what feels like an old standard (Sailor’s Lament) or simply taking one on by grabbing its horns and pulling (John Henry) we have a committed singer, player, writer, interpreter and arranger – a guy who has honed his ‘voice’ across disciplines and platforms and has pared back his writing to include only what’s necessary.
The closer here, For The Old Man, might be the highlight – but that’s if, cruelly, you’re only allowed to pick one. It’s the sort of song that feels as accomplished and crucial as anything on Paul Kelly’s great Spring and Fall album. But that’s not to say there aren’t other highlights. Hangerston’s lurching push/pull drums add a drunken swagger that serves the emotional resonance of Wood’s lyrics, acting as foreshadowing in a sense. And the title track is our first clue here that we’re dealing with a sophisticated lyricist, a songwriter content to wait the requisite number of spins a song or album might take for penny to drop.
Your penny for his thoughts here is money well spent. And this record will serve you well. It feels as close to a “Greatest Hits” as it does a second album by a still up-and-coming songwriter. Will Wood’s talent is confirmed with Magpie Brain & Other Stories. Now buy the record and check out the tour.