Sonic Youth Wields Wooden Wand: Thurston Moore's Ecstatic Peace Label Signs Wooden Wand, New Album Produced By Lee Ranaldo To Be Released May 2007.
Sonic Youth bassist Kim Gordon must've been busy or out of town. Because one way or another, the rest of her band was involved in the making of James and The Quiet, the forthcoming album by folkadelic troubadour Wooden Wand.
Thurston Moore -- Sonic Youth's spry, eternally-teenaged guitarist/vocalist -- has signed Wooden Wand to his tastemaker Ecstatic Peace label (home of Be Your Own Pet), announcing plans for a May 15th release. The album was produced by SY guitarist Lee Ranaldo (who also plays some stringed things on the recording), and longtime SY drummer Steve Shelley provides his signature rhythmic strut.
The prolific James Jackson Toth, working under the nom-de-tune Wooden Wand has released some 20-plus albums (even he has lost count, most of them cassettes and CD-Rs only) over a handful of years. However, Toth considers James and The Quiet the third proper Wooden Wand full length. While each release has explored a psychedelic-folk wonderland, this album is far and away one of the most concisely focused and downright catchy recordings in the WW oeuvre.
When Toth told his band his plans for his new album, they all looked at him like he was crazy. Likewise, when Toth announced these peculiar ambitions to Ecstatic Peace label head Moore and label manager Andrew Kesin, they gave him a similar look – an unmistakable mix of disbelief, skepticism and fear.
“I want it to be an un-weird record,” was Toth’s plan. The road-weary songwriter had been spending a lot of time with old Kris Kristofferson and Waylon Jennings records, and wanted to transcend the ‘psychedelic’ connotations he’d been pegged with since his days fronting Wooden Wand & The Vanishing Voice. He wanted to do what Elvis Costello did on Imperial Bedroom or Leonard Cohen did on I’m Your Man – he wanted to not give the people what they wanted, necessarily, but instead endeavor to follow his muse and create something altogether different.
Sure, everyone was baffled by this proclamation. How could Toth – who is to a wah-wah pedal what George Bush is to bad foreign policy – tone it down enough to make a record without any of the experimental leanings and idiosyncratic eccentricities of his previous work?
He didn’t, exactly, but he tried damn hard. “It’s just that when you get someone as brilliant as Sonic Youth’s Lee Ranaldo to produce and co-arrange a record, it gets very hard to pass up the opportunity to see a song through to its logical end and explore every possibility,” Toth says. With the help of Jarvis Taveniere (Vanishing Voice, Meneguar), DM Seidel (Vanishing Voice), Jeremy Earl (Woods, Meneguar), Steve Shelley (Sonic Youth), and Ranaldo himself (who sings and plays guitar and piano on the album) Toth’s folk songs quickly became densely layered and meticulously arranged, and, soon enough, an album began to take shape.
Co-arranger and vocalist Jessica Toth may be the record’s secret weapon. While perhaps best known for her role as lead vocalist and occasional guitarist in Wooden Wand & The Vanishing Voice, on James and The Quiet she emerges as the perfect foil to Toth’s inimitable artistic voice. Together with Ranaldo, Jessica wrote and fine-tuned most of the album’s exquisite harmony vocals and piano lines while Toth himself sat in the studio lounge, drinking beer and reading old issues of Tape Op magazine.
Longtime fans will note that James and The Quiet is markedly darker than Toth’s previous album Second Attention, and features many songs that have become live staples in the Wooden Wand oeuvre over the past year. It is also significant in that it will likely be the last album under the Wooden Wand moniker and as such, simultaneously closes one chapter and introduces another. “I'm tired of answering questions about the Vanishing Voice stuff,” Toth succinctly explains.
Hoping to transcend genre tags, Toth, with more than a little help from his friends, has crafted a consistent and creative batch of songs that rewards repeat listens and continues to showcase his talent as a songwriter.
Wooden Wand On Tour:
w/ Sonic Youth (*)
w/ Bright Eyes (**)
02/14 Northampton, MA Academy of Music*
02/15 New Haven, CT Toad's Place*
02/16 New York, NY Webster Hall*
02/17 Providence, RI Lupo's Heartbreak Hotel*
02/18 Burlington, VT Higher Ground*
03/01 Lexington, KY University of Kentucky
03/05 Washington, DC 9:30 Club**
James and The Quiet Tracklisting:
Release Date: May 15, 2007
01. The Pushers
02. In A Bucket
03. Spitting At The Cameras
05. We Must Also Love The Thieves
06. The Invisible Children
08. Blessed Damnation
09. Future Dream
10. James and The Quiet
11. Wired to the Sky
On The Web: www.myspace.com/woodenwand