9/10 Mike Staff review, 30 June 2011
It's been three years since Keith Wood's last Hush Arbors release, so here's a very welcome double LP comprising two live sets. The first was recorded solo in Sheffield in '07 and was originally put out as a super-limited CDr release. It's terrifically pretty so it's nice to see that it's been pressed on vinyl now too. Lots of hushed songs full of beautiful fingerpicking and Wood's light, plaintive voice bleating out melancholy romanticisms over the top. It's all about the guitar playing for me, really. Nimble-fingered but tasteful with it. There's a spacious, timeless, almost spiritual feel in the way he picks out the melodies while the hypnotic open-string pedal notes lap at your ankles. The second half of the set is all songs with "bone" in the title so I guess he'd just recently done that bone-themed EP that came out on Three Lobed around that time. There's a slightly more upbeat song towards the end where he's strumming instead of picking but this disc really focuses on the more doleful side of his work. In contrast, the second disc is a set recorded in Kittery, Maine, with Jason Ajemian on bass and backing vocals and John Moloney on drums. By Wood's standard's it's almost raucous, with a real bouncy bluesiness coming through. Kind of like the contrast between Magnolia Electric Company and Jason Molina's solo stuff. I like how they've put the two together on a single collection like this because both sets really put each other in a whole new context. I'm kind of surprised by how country rock this second LP sounds at times, but at the same time it's got these beautiful melancholy chords and husky vocals, so it's never in danger of veering into dodgy pop-country territory. Still much more of a hoedown than I expected, but that's no complaint. They do take it down a notch here and there to great effect, like the slacker ballad at the end of the first side, 'Devil Made You High', which has a really tasty laid-back groove to it. Phil just said this song sounds like Low and he's got a point. If anything I probably like this set the most out of the two, but they're too different to be particularly comparable. This is on a criminally short run of 350 so if you want it, now's your chance.
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