Wooden Wand :: The Aquarium Drunkard Interview

Wrapping one's head around the music of Wooden Wand, the ongoing project of idiosyncratic singer/songwriter James Jackson Toth takes some effort. With over 100 releases to his name, from spiraling freak-out ragas and avant-garde experimentation to classic Asylum Records-style folk pop — Toth skips through styles like a zealous host swapping out LPs on the turntable at a party.

2011’s Briarwood was a smoky slab of country funk, one of the strongest entries in Toth’s extensive catalog, but his brand new Blood Oath of the New Blues finds him indulging more esoteric impulses, exploring looping crime story like “Southern Colorado Song,” lonesome folk with “No Debts,” and droning expanses with “Dungeon of Irons.” The melodic elements of Briarwood are still there; only they’re pulled and expanded, stretched across the new record’s meditative ballads.

Toth —  who moonlights as a writer at Aquarium Drunkard —  describes the record as "Sunday morning's wake and bake" after "Briarwood's’ Saturday night revelry.” Amen.

AD: This marks the first successive Wooden Wand record to be recorded with the same group as the previous, correct?

James Jackson Toth: More or less. Wooden Wand and the Vanishing Voice had a pretty stable lineup, but since I’ve been doing solo stuff, I’ve definitely favored the revolving door approach. But we did [Blood Oath of the New Blues] in the same studio with the same people as [Briarwood]. It just works. I’m definitely going to record with them again. It’s good, as long as they can tolerate me, and I don’t alienate anybody [laughs].

AD: Briarwood and Blood Oath of the New Blues sound very interesting back-to-back. I imagine there are fans yours that favor one “thing,” or one Wooden Wand style more than another.

James Jackson Toth: Oh yeah.

AD: This record feels like it unites a lot of your sounds. I imagine it wasn’t intentional, but when you listen to it, do you get a sense that it ties together some of the disparate styles you’ve explored?

James Jackson Toth: Yeah, I think it does. Like you said, it wasn’t really intentional, but it does feel like a culmination at this point. There’s a lot of Wooden Wand material out there, and often you’re posed the question, “What one record would you tell someone to buy to get a sense of what you do?” I didn’t really have a good answer to that question. Like you said, I move around quite a bit and try different things. It’s a really good distillation of the many hats we’ve worn over the years.

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