Release Date: Jul 1, 2013
Record label: Ruf
Chris Wood is one of Britain's most uncompromising and original singer-songwriters, but his latest album is remarkable for the settings as much as the lyrics. The most celebrated member of the English Acoustic Collective has always been keen to experiment – as he proved with his folk-rap collaborations with Dizraeli – but he now plays amplified guitar and has become " infatuated" with the Hammond organ, which appears here along with bass, flugelhorn and piano. The mood remains as sombre as ever, with Wood's bleak, detailed observations of English life, political stupidity or his own uncertainties lightened just occasionally by stories of love and survival.
Wood has always tempered his winning brand of folk misery with resilience, but on this fifth solo outing the Kent singer mostly sounds defeated. The title track is a glum, if depressingly accurate, portrait of the nation. A version of Jerusalem has none of Blake's Christian optimism, and John Clare's I Am is as forlorn as ever. He perks up for The Sweetness Song, defying "the old Etonian lies" with personal love, and though a new fondness for electric guitar and Hammond organ adds buoyancy to material like A Whole Life Lived, the album too often trades his former wit for bitterness.