The Whiskey Priest 'Wave and Cloud', (Rainboot, 2010)
The power and the glory
So the nights begin to draw in again, clouds cover the country and drizzle dampens everyone’s spirits. Out of the grey anonymity of this September sky comes a review copy of The Whiskey Priest’s ‘Wave and Cloud’. The Whiskey Priest is Seth Woods of Austin based Sad Accordions who may be familiar to some. The moniker Woods has chosen draws on the emotional and theological tensions of Graham Greene’s ‘Power and the Glory’, of the fragility of faith and the extraordinary capacity of man for his own self-destruction.
Fortunately the result is something far more life affirming in which heartbreak is tempered by hope and promise.
The album begins with a mesmerising tune, the distant crashing of waves, Seth Woods’ voice and a melancholic guitar sailing through ‘A Seafarer’s Lament’, haunting and tragic and setting the tone for a truly wonderful album. Woods vocal style calls to mind the approach of a singer like Jeff Buckley, one for whom the voice is not simply an instrument but an outlet of emotional expression. This is meant to be high praise indeed, ‘Wave and Cloud’ finding the same strange middle ground as Buckley between rock, country, soul and blues. Woods' voice may lack range and spontaneity, but it has character, commitment and genuine emotion. This is what Phosphorescent thinks he sounds like (and Woods has a better beard). The interplay between Woods’ vocals and guitar playing is a constant pleasure – on ‘Uncalled’, for instance, the two come together in intimate harmony, a hypnotic effect that adds greater power to the final minute of the song when the rest of the backing band join in. While the majority of songs are slow paced, Woods is clearly comfortable on up-tempo numbers, in fact the hand-clapping, foot-stomping and banjo-bashing ‘No Man Is An Island (But Me)’ is one of the best tracks on the album.
‘All The Way Back’, which features on this month’s Americana UK sampler CD (plug, plug), is a great example of what this album is all about: a simple idea pulled off with gospel gusto, a tightly constructed and straightforward song that feels free, loose, untamed. ‘Wave and Cloud’ deserves your attention at a time when it is becoming increasingly difficult to locate genuine musical talent and emotional honesty in singer songwriting.
Date review added: Saturday, September 18, 2010
Reviewer: David Harry
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