[sic] Magazine

David Allred – Woods

I don’t review a lot of folk music. Consequently I don’t get sent a lot of folk music. Both things are probably contributory factors in the other and it’s a vicious cycle. At least, it’s a cycle. We cannot really call this type of music ‘vicious’. It’s about as far away from vicious as is imaginable. In this case Oscarson approached me and, remembering that label’s solid output and loving aesthetic to date, I agreed.

It wasn’t hard.

David Allred is an Oregon-based musician. A flick through his bio shows a young man with an impressive body of work already behind him. His album and song-titles betray a wry sense of humour and a cleverness with words. To give an example, ‘Easy Listening For Difficult People’ had me chuckling out loud. Allred also has an album called Midstory. I do not know his age but judging from the cover picture for Midstory he looks about 22. Some intelligence on display then.

Not to mention talent. To my ears at least, Allred has a lovely singing voice – imagine a breezier Kozelek (not difficult), or a folkier Gibbard. He plays guitar really nicely and was mentored by the incredible Peter Broderick. On paper this ticks a lot of boxes. Yet music isn’t a theoretical pastime. What, therefore of Woods?

Answer? A mixed bag, mostly positive. First of all, what are we calling Woods? An album? An EP? There are seven tracks here across two sides of 10” vinyl. Let’s call it a ‘record’ and run with that. Side A begins with ‘Differences’ – a dust-bowl, barbershop croon that one could easily imagine popping up in a Coen brothers film. ‘Differences’ is awash with social commentary, but it’s also a misleading start as ‘Song For Chantal’ feels more like the records pivotal or ‘lead’ track and sets a tone of its own. ‘Song For Chantal’ is beautiful, both in its writing and performance. The songwriting puts me in mind of Shack’s Mick Head, albeit at his most stripped back. Vocally he approaches an Americana C Duncan. Nicely done, Mr. Allred.

Elsewhere we have more of David’s askew humour. ‘Jesus Was A Crossmaker’, … yeah,cute. And more quality song-smithery (‘Hymns’, ‘Woods’) The only misstep, if I can call it that, is ‘The Universe’ a deliberately obtuse piece at the start of Side B. A only a minute and a half ‘The Universe’ is at least bearable.

There’s probably a lack of songs on Woods, but no lack of quality within the songs included. David Allred remains a talent to keep serious tabs on.

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