Withered Hand – Good News

January 01, 1970





Talk about an album
with legs, Good News, originally
released in late ‘09 in the UK, is just now officially reaching our shores across
the great pond, where it’s very likely to take flight all over again. Edinburgh
visual artist Dan Willson, re-entering a music career after many years after
putting it aside, self released a couple of EP’s which spread by word of mouth
popularity, eventually catching the attention of American producer Kramer, who
had stumbled upon his work online and ended up recording Good News, with funding provided by the Scottish Arts Council.


Willson’s wobbling
tenor immediately brings to mind Neil Young, a comparison not lost on anyone
who has ears.  A music review in The Scotsman stated, “He displays all the tremulous vocal
vulnerability of Neil Young in a set of brittle songs…” This begs the question,
if you happen to sound like Young, should you go out of your way not to, as to
avoid possible scorn and brickbats from Young fans? Several years ago, a friend
that I was trying to interest in MV & EE, disdainfully denounced Matt
Valentine as “sounding like Neil Young”, like he was trying steal his persona and
should be ashamed. To me, it’s simply a matter of ‘it is what it is,’ and you
either dig it, or be a snob and ditch it. I would go even farther by suggesting
that the album sounds like what one might expect if Neil Young joined with
Great Lake Swimmers to record an album together, as there’s plenty of plaintive
banjo plucking, accordion and background strings adding atmosphere to the
wistful music. The songs carry an innate sadness and world-weariness that are
more knowing than depressing, and a wisdom that comes from self-awareness,
especially in the introspective lyrics of “I Am Nothing.” In “Cornflake”, he
sings about stuff you’d be unlikely to hear Neil crooning about:


“It’s like I’m living with a legacy of teenage LSD,

So tell me that you love me or I’ll forget.

I’m not standing here for a lack of moral fi -ibre,

I get by with just enough, but that’s okay.

I’d do anything to get my dick insi -ide her,

But that’s not what she’d like to hear me say.”


Bowed cellos start “Joy” as it leaps
away from the alt-folk sound of much of the album, and veers into more of the
indie-rock sound of Guided By Voices or Sebadoh. Crisp, upbeat drumming starts
off “New Dawn,” a rather Lou Reed-ish number, by way of The Clean. Good News is an immediately infectious
work, which, if there’s any justice, will go viral with music lovers stateside,
as it did overseas. With thousands of bands out there vying for attention, Dan
Willson’s Withered Hand should get to skip to the front of the queue for


DOWNLOAD: “I Am Nothing”, “No Cigarettes,” “New Dawn: BARRY

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