James Jackson Toth CD reviewed by Troy Brookins
Jul 29, 2008, 03:14
JAMES JACKSON TOTH Waiting in Vain CD
Those who have followed James Jackson Toth through his various Wooden Wand configurations and collaborations are going to be shocked by the normalcy of Waiting in Vain. Absent is the psychedelic, experimental wash that dominated the majority of his projects. Instead, Toth strips it down to mid-seventies Mick Jagger country-blues, delivering straightforward tales filtered through whiskey and swagger. This change in direction is going to be difficult to swallow for those who like the freeform weirdness found on most Wooden Wand releases... It's like when Dylan went electric.
Think of a super polished Harem of the Sundrum & the Witness Fig and you'd be in the neighborhood; Give James Jackson Toth credit for taking the risk. He's definitely going to lose a part of his audience, but he's going to gain a whole new set of fans through the accessibility of Waiting in Vain. It's a welcome change that works in Toth's favor, because he succeeds. He comes off as if he's been wearing this sound for years— comfortable, confident and relaxed.
Toth and his wife Jexie Lynn are the core of Waiting in Vain, handling the vocals with some help from Carla Bozulich and Andy Cabic (Vetiver), while this round of Toth's revolving musical accompanists include Nels Cline, Shayde Sartin (Giant Sunflower Band) and Otto Hauser (Devendra Banhart). It's all tied together by producer Steve Fisk, who brings clarity to Toth's work—stripping away some of the clutter and weirdness that had previously prevented this form of James Jackson Toth from emerging.
I hope listeners find this change in James Jackson Toth's sound as refreshing as I have. I'm a huge fan of Wooden Wand, even though there are some releases I can't get all the way through, but Waiting in Vain captures a welcome maturity that puts Toth in a whole new category. It's the most experimental thing he could have done. [Ryko]