CHRIS WOOD

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - MUSIC - SIOB­HÁN LONG

RUF “Es­tu­ary soul”, he calls it, “more Church of Eng­land than gospel”, this feu­dal mix of elec­tric gui­tar, up­right bass and the most re­strained, grainy Ham­mond or­gan imag­in­able. Fil­ing away at the but­toned-up mores of his home coun­try with the laser-sharp pur­pose of a Shaw­shank in­mate, English singer-song­writer Chris Wood has long as­sumed the role of both com­men­ta­tor and agent provo­ca­teur. He’s the liv­ing em­bod­i­ment of what’s been called “bard­core” by Si­mon Em­mer­son, Woods’s fel­low mem­ber of the col­lab­o­ra­tive The Imag­ined Vil­lage.

Four re­mark­able solo al­bums in, and Wood has again raised the bar. Aban­don­ing his usual stripped­down sound for one rich in nu­ance and shade, Wood vis­its his at­ten­tion on a boun­ti­ful col­lec­tion of sub­jects and sources. He cat­a­pults Wil­liam Blake’s short poem And did th­ese feet into a sear­ing med­i­ta­tion on Eng­land’s cur­rent state of dis­re­pair, not by bowd­leris­ing Blake’s words but by jux­ta­pos­ing them with a lan­guid, deeply re­spon­dent gui­tar line that un­der­scores with pitch perfection each of Blake’s four posed ques­tions.

None the Wiser was born while Wood toured the UK with Joan Ar­ma­trad­ing, and its ti­tle track plays like a counter-in­sur­gency at­tack on the clichés and chest­nuts that dom­i­nate our news sto­ries: “To the masters of the uni­verse, we’re nought but fer­tiliser/what kind of beast is man?” he sings, his words bathed in a gui­tar line that hur­tles to­wards in­fin­ity.

This is no bar­ri­cade-thump­ing trea­tise, how­ever, but a dis­tilled and in­ti­mate col­lec­tion of snap­shots chron­i­cling the sweet­ness of love, the fragility of san­ity (with due def­er­ence to the won­der­ful English poet John Clare), the glo­ries of age­ing and so much more be­sides. Wood has writ­ten in the past of con­tem­po­rary is­sues with more sub­tlety and hu­mour than Billy Bragg and with a sense of his­tory that solidly an­chors his per­spec­tive.

No­body comes even close to equalling his bird’s-eye-view round th­ese parts lately, but None the Wiser will ef­fort­lessly feed ap­petites for sharp-toothed mu­si­cal in­ven­tive­ness in the mean­time. chris­wood­mu­sic.co.uk

Down­load: I Am, None the Wiser

None the Wiser

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