Wooden Wand & the Briarwood Virgins

The near-closing lines of the first song, “Well, it’s winter in Kentucky/And I’m all tapped out,” perfectly encapsulate the emotional desperation running like a crooked river throughout Wooden Wand’s ambitious new Briarwood. Recorded with a large ad-hoc ensemble of Alabama-based session players, Briarwood showcases the usually solo, Lexington-based Wooden Wand at his most musically accessible; it’s an album chock full of beautifully sung harmonies and well-played solos, overflowing with melancholic, defiant lyrics written from the perspective of scarred loners just trying to survive. In an era overpopulated with generic music masquerading trite sentiment as true insight, with hackneyed retro retreads posing as nods to “tradition,” the despondent personalities inhabiting Wooden Wand’s songs should earn him an appreciative audience akin to those enjoyed by the best American singer-songwriters. Alas, much as the characters of Briarwood well know, the small rewards eventually come to those who lower their expectations.