The Wooden Sky releases Swimming in Strang Waters April 7 on Nevado Music
There is a song on Swimming in Strange Waters that best encapsulates The Wooden Sky and their current direction as a group. “Baby we were born to die,” echoes voices down the dusty road to eternity. From the song, “Born to Die,” it seems like such an obvious statement. But The Wooden Sky turn it into a haunting folk landscape of wrinkles from being out in the blazing sun for too many years and dirt under the fingernails from the grit that underlays this acoustic stunner.
“Born to Die” is somewhat of an oddball on Swimming in Strange Waters. The album is named after a line in Frank Herbert’s Dune: “Survival is the ability to swim in strange waters.” It is also the perfect descriptive to this album that the act of survival puts a rustic song like this on a pedestal. The candlelit bedroom ballad. The beautiful harmonies. However, a good portion of this release dips its toes in a wash of psychedelia as the title track burns with the most obvious psych signs.
The Wooden Sky – Swimming in Strange Waters
“You’re Not Alone” gives us a feeling that goes back to Let’s Be Ready. According the band, they channel Fleetwood Mac and Jim O’Rourke on this song. What results is one of The Wooden Sky’s best songs.
There is more country twang embedded towards the later half of the album. “Black Gold” leaves us with a pounding drum and rusty strings. Gavin Gardiner’s vocals balances between whiskey tinged versus and crooning choruses. It smooths out on “Riding on the Wind,” a more ethereal pop song. It pushes the band with a perspective that bends conceptualization of the band.
The end to this release molds strings, piano, and sobering vocal pleas. “Glory Hallellujah” does not do a great job at leaving us with certainty. What it does do is allow us to contemplate. Is this a religious experience or a solemn confessional. Maybe it’s both.
Swimming in Strange Waters is a product of the band pushing forward both lyrically, musically, and philosophically. It proves the road is not a straight line but overgrown and possibly perilous.