Release Date: Oct 26, 2010
Record label: Young God Records
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock, Alternative Singer/Songwriter, Psychedelic/Garage, Free Folk
Sometimes the man behind Death Seat is Wooden Wand, sometimes simply Wand, and in the past, part of Wooden Wand & the Vanishing Voice, but he's always James Jackson Toth, and he's always an uncompromising singer/songwriter. That remains true on this outing, which is the first Wooden Wand album to appear on Michael Gira's boutique label Young God Records. In the past, the label has been known for freak-folk linchpin Devendra Banhart's neo-hippie musings, but while the Wooden Wand style remains an organic, lo-fi, acoustic-based sound, Toth is nobody's hippie.
James Jackson Toth, known for the last decade as Wooden Wand, Wand, or simply Toth, first recorded Death Seat in Murfreesboro, Tenn., a small college town outside of Nashville where he was working as a carpenter. After a disastrous tour, an arrest, a bender, and a handful of raw deals at the hands of record labels, both Toth's career and marriage had fallen apart. Death Seat, as recorded in Murfreesboro, feels like Toth's attempt to regroup and realign.
There's an inviting, sweetly shambling air to Death Seat, the latest from James Jackson Toth, otherwise known as Wooden Wand. While it's hardly the feel-good record of the moment, Toth has a gift with an engaging delivery for his scenarios of rough times and fringe living. If Bright Eyes were a bit blearier, Conor Oberst might be moved to make a string of songs like these.
A death seat is a powerful obelisk. It carries with it grim imagery — the idea that, at any moment, where you sit could spell the end of existence. Whether you choose a literal or metaphysical interpretation, the visage of death will be staring you in the face. However, James Toth’s death seat — the ups and downs of being on the road, the weariness of blue collar work, a battle with a major label — has amounted to a new book of scripture with the heavenly Michael Gira guiding him to the light.
Just to read the titles of James Jackson Toth’s recent output—Born Bad, Hard Knox, and now Death Seat—is to get a pretty clear sense of where he’s coming from. He had a major-label deal go sour, had a band quit on him mid-tour, and got himself arrested—nearly all at the same time. So you’d forgive the main man behind Wooden Wand for sounding a little bitter.
Wooden Wand His tunes are pretty simple, but James Jackson Toth, who performs under the name Wooden Wand, takes risks with words. He writes songs of sketchy morality draped in weird sounds — guitar solos like water drips, deep-echo vocal choruses — but centered in folk-song structures, like a ….