Biography

Says Swans frontman and head of Young God Records Michael Gira, James Jackson Toth’s “got that picaresque quality that Dylan had in his heyday, wherein the shambolic narrator undergoes various travails and epiphanies—harrowing, bleak and darkly comical—in the course of a narrative, then leaves you mystified, both smiling and sad.”

Wooden Wand, a.k.a. singer-songwriter James Jackson Toth, has released material under such collectives as Wooden Wand & the Vanishing Voice, Wooden Wand & the Sky High Band, and Wooden Wand & the Briarwood Virgins. Toth’s style has drawn on a variety of both conventional and experimental folk, country and rock influences, including psych folk, acid folk, free folk, and indie. The heavily Neil Young and Crazy Horse-influenced “Briarwood,” released in November 2011, is perhaps Toth’s most lyrically accessible record to date.

“Briarwood” finds the New York native mining the remarkably fertile music scene in Birmingham, Alabama, including two members of early oughts indie darlings Verbena—Les Nuby, also the producer of “Briarwood,” and Duquette Johnston—members of Plate Six, Through the Sparks, and Delicate Cutters. Recent Wooden Wand tours have featured a stripped-down version of the full band, including Janet Simpson-Templin, who has also recorded with Jeffrey Lewis. A second record from the Birmingham crew, “Blood Oaths for the New Blues,” which Toth has described as “a Sunday morning wake-and-bake” to the Saturday night revelry of “Briarwood,”was released to critical acclaim in January of 2013.

A native New Yorker, James Jackson Toth’s roots extend to Purchase College in the early 2000s, when the Wooden Wand & the Vanishing Voice (now members of Woods and Jex Thoth) collaboration gained attention under the genre of New Weird America, exemplified by a growing group of artists reviving and adapting the legacy of 1960s and ’70s folk music. Today, critics often locate Toth’s forbears within the great tradition of American songwriting, often citing Neil Young, Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, and Leonard Cohen.

Toth has been on such labels as Kill Rock Stars, Ecstatic Peace!, Rykodisc, Young God, and Fire. He is often considered a songwriter’s songwriter; his songs have been performed or recorded by Langhorne Slim, Woods, Kerry Kennedy/Ghostwise, Owen Tromens, Akron/Family, Cloudland Canyon, Chuck Mead (BR549), Donovan Quinn, Jeff Lewis, Little Gold, and Kelly Kneiser of Glossary.

Edited by leahtard79 on 24 May 2013, 16:08

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