Release Date: Mar 25, 2014
Record label: Slumberland
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock
Withered Hand’s 2011 debut album made folk rocker Dan Willson an “artist to watch,” but on his sophomore album New Gods, Willson sounds like a long-established artist, accomplished in his songwriting and confident in his craft. His songs are full of emotion, both joyful and earnest, carrying New Gods from pop exuberance to mellow contemplation and back. It should establish Willson as not just an artist to watch, but to eagerly want more from.
Dan Wilson's debut album as Withered Hand was a wonderfully low-key affair in the grand tradition of Scottish troubadours like Aztec Camera's Roddy Frame and King Creosote. It was hard to believe that he hadn't picked up a guitar until he was 30 because it sounded like he had been writing world-weary songs for decades.New Gods might initially seem like an altogether different beast, but it really isn't. Wilson is joined by an impressive lineup of fellow Scots such as King Creosote, Eugene Kelly from the Vaselines and members of Frightened Rabbit and Belle & Sebastian, which collectively adds a whole new level of jangle this time around.
At the End Of The Road festival in 2010, Canadian artist Woodpigeon played a number of sets across the stages. At each they turned out their own lambent material but also threw in a striking cover: a torturously heartsick exercise in melodious loathing that turned out to be Withered Hand’s ‘No Cigarettes’. Dan Wilson, who to all intents and purposes is Withered Hand, had released a couple of EPs as well as his debut album (Good News upon which the title of this second full length appears to be a neat inversion) in Scotland by that time and was slowly gaining a name for himself in 'indiepop' circles as an acoustic troubadour you could legitimately connect with, a serious, damaged but playful guy-with-a-guitar that took all the bluster and self-importance of the likes of Frank Turner and his ilk and flushed it, without fuss, down the toilet where it belongs.
Edinburgh’s Dan Willson has been recording and performing as Withered Hand for more than five years now, but his second album New Gods looks set to be something of a belated breakthrough. Willson’s music has been rather too easily categorised as winsome indie-pop, and his imposing but faltering voice, combined with strummed acoustic guitars and the occasional slice of Byrdsian twang certainly place him in a certain lineage. New Gods is produced by Tony Doogan, the Scottish producer perhaps most well known for his work with Belle and Sebastian and The Delgados.
Head here to submit your own review of this album. In 2009 an unknown musician named Dan Willson, under the moniker Withered Hand, came out of near musical obscurity to release a record of subtle beauty. This lush debut, entitled Good News, gained plaudits with everyone from Mojo to Rolling Stone; commending its sparse arrangements and intelligent lyrical style.
The cover image of New Gods, the second album from Scottish indie folkster Dan Wilson's Withered Hand moniker, features the singer posing with an acoustic guitar, hand covering his face. A closer look reveals a K Records sticker prominently displayed on the guitar, the shielded upper-case letter an icon for the spirit of independent creation. There's a track called "Black Tambourine," name-checking the influential noise pop band and featuring backing vocals and percussion from none other than Black Tambourine's lead singer, Pam Berry.
The songwriter otherwise known as Dan Willson, one plank of modern folk crew Fence Collective, has taken his time over this follow-up to 2009’s ‘Good News’ and it’s worked wonders – a mournfully drippy, strumming caterpillar is reborn a bright pop-rock butterfly. Drawing on the same sort of sunkissed sounds as the likes of Real Estate and Best Coast cut with sharp and melancholy humour, ‘New Gods’ is endlessly lovable stuff. The warmth and depth of the production is offset by Willson’s wavering, otherworldly voice on the likes of the richly twanging ‘Horseshoe’, and ‘Black Tambourine’ zings with Teenage Fanclub-ish exuberance.
Withered Hand is the moniker of Edinburgh-based singer-songwriter Dan Wilson, whose debut release Good News was accompanied by a trio of EPs. New full-length New Gods is a collaboration with producer Tony Doogan, whose previous credits include albums with Belle & Sebastian, Mountain Goats and Teenage Fanclub. Withered Hand is straightforward folk rock with a jaunty, jangly edge, good enough at what it does, but not quite varied enough in approach to remain engaging after repeated listenings—although this isn’t evident at first.
Dan Willson did not begin his music career until the age of 30. It was only then, prompted by the death of a close friend, was Withered Hand born. Raised as a Jehovah’s Witness, Willson was forbidden from attending school assemblies, birthday parties or Christmas celebrations – and his music shows it. His first album, ‘Good News’, was, rather expectedly, anything but.
Older and wiser? You're having a laugh. Getting older makes you feel vulnerable; fearful for your knees and your loved ones; unsure of everything when you used to know it all. You cry at the most ridiculous films. Look in the mirror and see your ancestors. As for your teeth, and gravity: Jesus. You ….
It’s not hard to see why Dan Willson, aka Withered Hand, was quick to be labelled ‘anti-folk’ when he first appeared circa-2008: everything about him cried ramshackle and raw. There were the grainy old YouTube videos of Willson playing along with members of Meursault at an Edinburgh house party; the acoustic guitar, plastered with the logo of K Records and other indie stickers; the voice, on first listen frail and injured, and the underdog tales, during which you’re sure that Willson is never more than a heartbeat away from taking himself down a peg or two. But scratch beneath the surface, and the tag doesn’t seem so fitting.