Withered Hand – I Am Nothing (2009)
Withered Hand – alias Edinburgh alt-rock swashbuckler Dan Willson – is playing in a bygone jailhouse in Stirling this coming Friday, Feb 4th. He’s joined by Canadian folk-pop deity Woodpigeon and another equally loveable if somewhat clandestine ‘special guest’. People from all walks of musical fandom should – nay, must – attend in their droves.
In anticipation of Friday’s rock merriment, let us revisit I Am Nothing, one of the highlights from Withered Hand’s 2009 debut album, ‘Good News’ (review from The List below). It’s a joyous, if overly-modest aria which pits Willson against the Beatles and the Stones (well, the Stone Roses) in the specialist canon of ‘Factually Inaccurate Rock ‘n’ Roll’ (see: I am the Walrus; I am the Resurrection).
Withered Hand – Good News (SL Records)
Source: The List, September 2009.
Withered Hand is not, alas, a Jeremy Beadle tribute band. It is, however, the nom de plume of Edinburgh alt.folk messiah Dan Willson – and for said dude we should give thanks.
Willson is a curious pop disciple: a deadpan bard eternally vexed by the doctrines of God, the inconsequence of life, and the transparent nature of modern swimwear. ‘Good News’, his gorgeous debut album, delivers a compendium of warped-rock sermons that variously reference Seventh-day Adventism (Cornflake); lyrical post-rationalisation (For the Maudlin); and knocking one out on your paramour’s couch (Religious Songs, his signature anthem).
Despite his dedication to a DIY cause that’s seen Withered Hand galvanise Edinburgh’s live terrain and perform with Jeffrey Lewis and Calvin Johnson, Willson’s quavering vocals and acoustic eulogies elicit heavy-hitters Bright Eyes (on woebegone porch-swing opener Providence) – and even Neil Young at times.
Fans will recognise much of Good News: previous Withered Hand singles feature, but they’re (needlessly) tweaked by producer Kramer (Low, Daniel Johnston). Hence deficit aria No Cigarettes surrenders some of its vulnerability, while a refinement of Religious Songs misplaces the hymn’s initial scrabbly desperation.
This is a minor quibble. Willson’s sing-a-long afflictions and satirical narratives are marvellous. ‘Lord… won’t you listen to me, your unfaithful servant’s filthy fucking language’, he importunes on Love in the Time of Ecstasy, a sonorous ‘so-what’ to the hereafter.
‘In the greater scheme of things, I am nothing’, he later claims – which just goes to show that, despite being splendid, Withered Hand is not always right.
Here’s a Woodpigeon review from The List
Withered Hand / Woodpigeon play Stirling Tolbooth on Feb 4, more info and tickets here.