David Wood,
(DeW Note, 2011)

Country, let us be clear, is not meant ironically or humorously. David Wood's Country is precisely as advertised. On the other hand, there's country, and then there's country. The dimly informed label folk singers and bluegrass bands "country." Once, it was routine for The Band and the Eagles to be miscalled the same. Hank Williams and Lefty Frizzell were -- properly -- pegged such, but, not so properly, are the disposable legions spewing instantly obsolete pop-rock out of Nashville for 15 seconds' worth of air play on "country" radio.

A longtime manager turned recording artist, Wood, who is based in Los Angeles, takes his approach from the more traditional side of 1970s country, a period Robbie Fulks both championed and lampooned on his Georgia Hard (Yep Roc, 2005). There is nothing on Country so appallingly hilarious as "I'm Gonna Take You Home (And Make You Like Me)" or so nightmare-inducing as "Coldwater, Tennessee," but then, there's only one Robbie Fulks.

If Wood is a straightforward practitioner of the latter-day honkytonk song -- consider, for example, the couldn't-be-unsubtler "Beer Drinkin' Song," which he co-wrote with onetime country star Lacy J. Dalton -- he is also, happily, an appreciator of the long-gone country novelty song. That means there's a touch of the decidedly pre-'70s Hank Thompson, albeit without Thompson's vocal chops. But then, there is, or was, only one Hank Thompson.

In any event, I am most drawn to the funny songs, notably "Ride the Wild West (Cowabunga)," which is what might have happened if Thompson and Jan & Dean had sat down to collaborate: a goofy fusion of cowboy ballad and surf anthem. Alas, the day is decades past when something like this could have been a hit. Country radio, already short of stuff you want to listen to, is poorer -- more precisely, even poorer -- for it. The song, incidentally, is co-credited to somebody claiming to be named "Lore Orion." The same individual gets full credit on the more somber "Blue Light Lady." Does someone who bears that name actually walk the earth? If so, I learn, he or she remains deeply in hiding. Keep your eyes and ears open.

Wood, who contributes only two originals to the 11 cuts, delivers the songs in a roughhewn baritone somewhat akin to Ray Benson's (of Asleep at the Wheel). It's a friendly voice if hardly a technically perfect one, which basically is what you want in your country: something that calls to mind how the guy on the next barstool sounds when he's telling you a story. Country is an enjoyable record, intended for those who like their country music like their bar food: tasty in a greasy kind of way, and served with no seasoning save salt, pepper and ketchup.

music review by
Jerome Clark

9 July 2011

Agree? Disagree?
Send us your opinions!

what's new