dinsdag 11 augustus 2015

Let's Be Ready. The Wooden Sky

The Wooden Sky plays its music in a genre in which it becomes harder to distinguish from other bands by the year. In the bandwidth of Springsteen rock, some indie guitars and hints of roots rock the market is overfull, with bands like The Gaslight Anthem that in my opinion has never released a really decent album in its career. The same goes for many of its followers, again, in my humble opinion. For my Dutch, European ears it just sounds to American and that goes for Springsteen himself too.

At first listening, admittedly in the background, Let's Be Ready sounded just fine. The Wooden Sky excels in harmonies and melodies. The first serious listening gave me a fright though. Where does 'Saturday Night' lead me to, I thought. Luckily the band does not just take me down the territory described above, but varies in several directions.

The Wooden Sky is from Canada, Toronto to be exact. It released its first record in 2007 and Let's Be Ready is its fourth full length album. According to the bio "the band never sounded as bold - or nearly as raw". I'll take that for granted, not having heard any previous work and concentrate on Let's Be Ready.

This band is the band of Gavin Gardiner. He sings, writes and plays the guitar. For the rest there are as many past members as there are current members: 4. As there is a band photo, I gather that The Wooden Sky is a band and not a project.

One of the comparisons that comes to mind listening to 'When the Day Is Fresh and the Light Is New' is The Tragically Hip. The lead guitar line sounds just like classic 'New Orleans is Sinking' lead lines. It gives the song an urgency and propels it forwards in a great way. Instantly recognisable and likeable. This comparison is incidental by the way. The Wooden Sky doesn't let itself get caught in one hole.

Where to really start to express my impression of Let's Be Ready? That would be with the rough-edged voice of Gavin Gardiner. It sounds like it was used well and abused a little on the side. It has that pleasant roughness and is extremely interesting to listen to. Here's a singer who worked his way up to this album and suits the music he creates with his band. There simply isn't a doubt here. Whether the band rocks or plays a more balladry kind of song, Gardiner convinces with ease. He could have been a country singer. In that case I may have likes him less though.

Behind him others fill in pleasant sounding harmonies. In other words, the mood is softened up no little around Gavin Gardiner creating a contrast that gives a second touch to Let's Be Ready. Male or female both vocal sounds do the trick. Whether in ooh and aahs or singing along. The Wooden Sky knows where to find some nice harmonies.

The third attraction of Let's Be Ready is in the diversity of the songs it contains. It's this what makes the The Gaslight Anthem kind of songs more than bearable, while the Neil Young like slow rockers, e.g. 'Shake For Me', gives the album its depth. The distorted guitar versus the clearer one creates some great tension in the song. The dreamy interlude could have been skipped though. What The Wooden Sky shows is that it masters several styles and write and play a song in that style in a great way.

A conclusion like that can only be derived at because The Wooden Sky is not excelling in originality. That may take a point away, that can only be won back by quality. In this the band comes a long way. There are several songs that I truly like and a few that do not make me dislike it. And there is the title song. I just can't find my way into this country ballad. No doubt there is some deep level of emotion in there, but not for me.

It all ends with a Wilco inspired mid-tempo song called 'Don't You Worry About a Thing'. After intensive touring The Wooden Sky had to come up with a new album and decided to change its course. A home recorded album, its harshest to date. "We went for broke", Gardiner said about the album. The title of the final song tells it all though: mission accomplished. Let's Be Ready is no five star record, but a genuinely good one, with many an interesting twist and turn, loads of variety with some sweet harmonies, making it interesting, fun and above all good.


You can listen to 'Saturday Night' here:


or buy at Bol.com

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