Jon Wood: One to Five (2004)
Jon Wood's album is so named because there are between one and five musicians per track, making a total of fifteen musicians altogether; and it took fifteen months to record. Wood is the guitarist in The Fold, a UK folk-rock group. All of his Fold bandmatesincluding former violinist Eamon McLoughlin, now in the US with The Greencardsappear on this, his first solo effort.
Wood's bluesy, unadorned guitar style is best displayed on instrumental tracks such as "Slow Burn," "Tightrope" and "125mph." The latter of these, a trio with Josie Owens on soprano sax, is One to Five 's best and is perhaps indicative of the direction Wood might have taken with the whole of the album. Instead he has opted to draw on his background in The Fold to produce some garden-variety folk-rock songs, very few of which beg for positive attention.
"It Means Everything" is a decent blues number sung by Leanna Santamaria and accentuated by Owens' alto sax. "The Beat of My Heart," however, is drowning in bad songwriting clichés. As children, we hosted an imaginary radio station in my neighbor's garage, recording impromptu vocal tracks onto a battered old cassette player for our "Top 10 countdown," and this is the sort of stuff we used to come up with.
"In Your Shadow," despite some fine chamber orchestration, falls victim to this same bathos, as does "Maybe Girl." ("Maybe Girl" vocalist David Jordan also glosses the second syllable of "coward" at one point, so at first it sounds as if he's singing, "Yeah, I'm a cow, but at least cows don't get hurt so bad." Thank heavens for liner note lyrics.) Linda Game's violin, earnest but not so taxingly sentimental, saves the song.
The album's real vocal highlight is "Horse Nails." Tobias' (no surname is given) smoky, journeyman vocals atop the acoustic guitar recall Portland-based bluesman Kelly Joe Phelps. Perhaps not surprisingly, Tobias wrote his own lyrics, and they achieve a greater level or subtlety and poetry than anything else on the disc. This suggests that Mudlow, the band Tobias fronts, is worth checking out, or that he and Wood might record a promising album as a duo.
One to Five , then, is something of a curate's egg. A small number of tracks hint at what could have been accomplished had the others been written and performed in a similar style. But the pervasive, embarrassing and clumsy earnestness like that of "The Beat of My Heart" means that there are a lot of songs of middling quality, and they dilute the impact of the better material.
Track Listing: 1. Slow Burn; 2. Horse Nails; 3. Feel Warm Inside; 4. Tightrope; 5. It Means Everything; 6. 125mph; 7. In Your Shadow; 8. Sorry I Missed Your Birthday; 9. Maybe Girl; 10. Beat of My Heart; 11. Tuning, Drop out; Hidden track: The Clown
Personnel: Eamon McLoughlin, violin (1, 11); Tobias, vocals (2); Phil Mills, lap steel guitar (2); Hanna Burchell, vocals (3, 10), backing vocals (7), flute (3); Lenna Santamaria, vocals (5); Josie Owens, alto saxophone (5), soprano saxophone (6); Steve Harrison, bass (5); Simon Cambers, drums (5); Tom Andrews, percussion (6); Steve Holland, vocals (7); Linda Game, violin (7, 9, 10); Gill Emerson, cello (7); David Jordan, vocals (9); Charlie D'aerth, double bass (10); Jon Wood, acoustic guitar
Record Label: Orange Sky Records