Chris Wood Handmade Life Review

Released 2009.  

BBC Review

Confirms Wood as one of the English music’s most potent, if complex, talents.

Colin Irwin 2009

After two exquisitely crafted solo albums and some exciting multi-cultural adventures through Englishness with The Imagined Village band project, Chris Wood again defies those who foolishly try to second guess him.

His songs are elusive and his delivery so deceptively introverted that a cursory observation may deem his work too dense for consumption beyond a hardcore folk fraternity. But intelligence, seriousness and subtlety is but an artificial barrier to popular appeal erected by the crushingly blinkered perceptions of the Simon Cowell mindset, and there’s something magically, hypnotically compelling about the quiet way Wood goes about his business. He drops every couplet, every word, every syllable into the narrative with a laser-like precision that quickly gets you hooked.

Unlike its two award-winning predecessors, The Lark Descending and Trespasser, this is an album built almost entirely of Wood’s own painstakingly carved songs, which approach stealthily from unlikely angles to unwrap the covers shielding the troubled issues tainting modern life: extreme nationalism, the perniciousness of profit, official corruption and all.

All of which makes Wood sound like a hopeless idealist, but there’s nothing fanciful or woolly about this album. The songs are political, but not in any fist-clenching, sloganeering fashion. Understatement and intonation are Wood’s trademarks and his scalpel is so artistically applied you scarcely see the cut. But among the social commentaries secreted in tracks like My Darling’s Downsized and No Honey Tongued Sonnet are deeply touching love songs and even the more direct targets of Spitfires and The Grand Correction are beautifully weighted. And his cold dispassion as he recounts the details leading to the killing of Jean Charles de Menezes in the album’s most forthright track, Hollow Point, give the song an eerie tension that wouldn’t be replicated by any frenzied vocal or a howling arrangement.

He breaks the pattern of the other two albums by using a band – Robert Jarvis on trombone, Barney Morse Brown on cello and Andy Gangadeen on drums – but they are never intrusive, offering textural and atmospheric backdrops for his elegant melodies and clever couplets. It confirms Wood as one of the English music’s most potent, if complex, talents.

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