CD Review: Alexa Woodward - Weary
Back in 2009, I was taken by Alexa Woodward’s album Speck. While she is New York City-based, Woodward’s spare, rustic sound feels drawn from her Southern roots (she grew up in Virginia and South Carolina).
Her latest offering It's a Good Life, Honey, If You Don't Grow Weary (available online in February) is a joy to listen to. She does a terrific job of gently fleshing out her sound while retaining its delicate Americana sound. Woodward plays banjo and ukulele; however, her songs make use of vibephones, cello, washboard, percussions and even some electric instruments. An electric guitar, for instance, howls in the background of “Wolves” to compliment its title and its eerie tale.
Her music nicely balances old-timey and contemporary elements. Her songs, which are frequently relationship-based, mix images of the past and the present “All That Sugar” holds the line “and I bet you don’t have good sex/when your blood’s all full of gold,“ while in “Elephant,” she tells an ex-lover that “I hope Nina treats you right/that Copenhagen’s kind /that you sleep sound every night” among fanciful imagery of traveling over mountains and water.
Throughout the disc, Woodward displays a strong lyrical command. She begins “O Tornado” with “drive across the county line/Salinger and Andrew Wyeth/betwixt, between the time/where the frozen clocks are awful quiet” and doesn’t come across as a freshman lit major. “Pillar of Salt” similarly shows a deft poetic touch as she mixes biblical references and emotional revelations.
When Woodward harmonizes with frequent collaborator Linky Dickson, they suggest a more rural version of the Roches. Abigail Washburn and Gillian Welch also serve as touch points here; however, Woodward forges her own sound – something that’s modern and timeless, lilting and melancholic - during this thoroughly delightful disc. With her exquisitely crafted third effort, Woodward seems on poised for big things.