I think it’s fair to say that 2009 has been Dan Willson’s year, in a musical sense.  He’s gone from being one of Edinburgh’s most respected songwriters to the leader of a band on the verge of genuinely widespread and richly deserved recognition.

I am likely to repeat this analysis come the time of his album release in September of this year, but I find myself smiling sometimes at just how little actual innovation seems to take place with the actual music and arrangement of Withered Hand’s music.  It’s all quite basic and straightforward, with his acoustic guitar supplemented here by bits of piano, percussion and accordion and some backing vocals from King Creosote, who recorded and produced this little gem.

Basically though, Withered Hand are a great band because Dan is a truly special, special songwriter.  His fundamental knack for a melody is uncanny, and his lyrics are superb.  His songs of self-doubt and insecurity are just a shade too humorous and clever to actually be self-pitying.  And yet they’re always too heartfelt and believably real to be anything other than genuinely affecting.

No Cigarettes is a boody masterpiece, frankly, and Oldsmobile Car is the latest incarnation of a brilliant song written with Dan’s Bear Scotland pals Cammy Watt and Neil Pennycook, which has previously seen the light of day as the demo Shooby Shooby and also as Red Candle Bulb on the recent Meursault EP.  It’s nice to see the main songwriter himself give us his own interpretation, and the quavering backing vocals of Mr. Anderson are perfectly suited to the deer-in-headlights nature of the words.

Big Ten Four sounds uncannily like Neil Young, funnily enough, but in preceding the lovely Are You Courageous, perhaps slows things down a little too much for my taste it almost puts the brakes on two blocks before the corner, but that’s about the only criticism I have to offer: a minor quibble about sequencing.  Otherwise, this is fucking brilliant.



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From the Song, by Toad Archives. Visit Song, by Toad for more from Matthew.