When James Jackson Toth, aka Wooden Wand, told his band his plans for his new album, they all looked at him like he was crazy. Likewise, when Toth announced these peculiar ambitions to Ecstatic Peace label head Thurston Moore and label manager Andrew Kesin, they gave Toth a similar look - an unmistakable mix of disbelief, skepticism and fear.
“I want it to be an un-weird record,” was Toth’s plan. The road-weary Toth been spending a lot of time with old Kris Kristofferson and Waylon Jennings records, and wanted to transcend the ‘psychedelic’ connotations he’s been pegged with since his days fronting Wooden Wand & The Vanishing Voice. He wanted to do what Elvis Costello did on Imperial Bedroom or Leonard Cohen did on I’m Your Man - he wanted to not give the people what they wanted, necessarily, but instead endeavor to follow his muse and create something altogether different.
Sure, everyone was baffled by this proclamation. How could Toth - who is to a wah-wah pedal what George Bush is to bad foreign policy - tone it down enough to make a record without any of the experimental leanings and idiosyncratic eccentricities of his previous work?
Well, he didn’t, exactly, but he tried damn hard. It’s just that when you get someone as brilliant as Sonic Youth’s Lee Ranaldo to produce and co-arrange a record, it gets very hard to pass up the opportunity to see a song through to its logical end and explore every possibility. With the help of Jarvis Taveniere (Vanishing Voice, Meneguar), DM Seidel (Vanishing Voice), Jeremy Earl (Woods, Meneguar), Steve Shelley (Sonic Youth), and Ranaldo himself (who sings and plays guitar and piano on the album) Toth’s folk songs quickly became densely layered and meticulously arranged, and, soon enough, an album began to take shape.