I wasn’t going to write about Withered Hand for another week or so due to a guest post that is yet to go up at Slowcoustic but I can’t let this go on any further. I can be silent no more! I love Withered Hand. There, I said it. I’ve been trying for weeks to write about this man and how much I love his music, but as is the case with artists that really resonate with me, I find that it’s difficult to do them justice with mere words. Unless you’re incredibly gifted though, chances are you’re not a mind reader, and so I’ll try and do my best to describe what it is that I love about the music.
Withered Hand is the performing name of Edinburgh’s Dan Willson and somehow he’s managed to produce a stunning collection of songs that I’ve not been able to get out of my head. His debut album Good News is, in my eyes at least, a masterpiece. There’s an honesty about the way he writes, nothing’s hidden from view but is all laid out before you, every last twisted bitter thing. It’s a melancholy album, an album that questions and provokes but there are countless moments of pure sweetness in the turn of phrase, the imagery, the wavering vocals and the subtle percussion. The lyrics are brilliant, raw and organic, ernest and unaffected. It’s a truly gorgeous album.
Just when I thought he couldn’t get any better though, he went ahead and created a stunning Christmas song that I’ve literally had on repeat for over an hour now. In the words of my mate Tart, who is just as enamoured with Withered Hand as I am, it’s magic. Just magic. It’s sad and heartrending and, as with all of his work, brutally honest and real. There are references scattered thoughout many of his songs that question the nature of religion and this one is no different. It’s safe to say that his turn of phrase constantly slays me.
Here are some of the lyrics that I’ve managed to decipher – they’re not definitive and come from the middle of the song and might not be completely correct, but they’re an example of what I’m rambling on about.
there’s no snow in the ground and the gifts are all open
every year it’s the same always hope against hoping
of all of the days I think this could be the worst day
it’s not even the real thing, it’s not Jesus’s birthday
row upon row of identical houses
if there is a god tell me how he allowed this to go by
in my minds eye I’ve seen you like this a million times
I sink two cans of rock star to your one can of red bull (?)
you say this is three quarters empty I say no it’s a quarter full
you say touche
you’re so smart hey
why do I think I’m ugly when you say I’m beautiful
save me from temptation and lead me from inadequacy
let me show love to those who are unkind to me
cos yours is the way and the power and the glory
so dress (?) like a whore and pretend to ignore me
in my mind’s eye I dont mind I
I’ve seen you like this a million times
this used to be a holy day
with your head in my lap it’s a wonderful lie…
And the end… make sure you listen to the end, won’t you? And take note of the strings as well, and of the fact that this was recorded a week ago in his kitchen (!), with the help of a few good friends in Benni Hemm Hemm, Rory of Broken Records and Chris of Meursault. How you manage to get that depth of sound from a kitchen recording, I’ll never know.
And from the magnificent Good News
Other highlights from the album include ‘No Cigarettes’, ‘Cornflake’ and ‘Providence’.
Have I gushed too much? I don’t care. Go and buy the bloody album.