Wooden Wand James & The Quiet

Native Brooklynite and current Tennessee resident Wooden Wand (James Toth) has delivered a prolific discography (some 20-plus records) that can be divvied into two categories. The first stream often showcases wandering psych-folk with occasional nods to American primitivism and Don Cherry-inspired jazz. The second stream involves a rugged guitar-slinger who keeps a Bible in his pocket and is ready to set up shop in any barn or highway tavern, à la Johnny Cash, Neil Young or Merle Haggard. James & The Quiet is firmly in the second category. According to Toth, this new work is a deliberate attempt to break with the "weird” tag he feels has dogged his career. Whereas psych-folk fringes decorated parts of 2005’s Harem of the Sundrum and the Witness Fig and 2006’s Second Attention, they are nowhere to be found here. On these 11 songs, which at 38 minutes hearken back to the golden age of the long-player, Wooden Wand strips the studio of all sonic trickery and puts the emphasis on his lyrics. To his credit, Toth has a singular talent for imagistic turns of phrase — the temptation toward Biblical extrapolation has always cushioned his miniature stories in parable without making them feel as if they’re being religious. But without his previous jammy penchant, Toth sometimes overcompensates with his lyrics, reaching beyond his comfort zone for that umpteenth metaphor that ultimately rings false. Nevertheless, James & the Quiet is another welcome addition to the ever-growing Wooden Wand catalogue. (Ecstatic Peace)