Album review: Withered Hand, New Gods

Withered Hand front man Dan Wilson
Withered Hand front man Dan Wilson
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The status of Edinburgh-based Dan Willson as one of Scotland’s least heralded but most loved musicians is confirmed with this first album since his 2009 debut Good News, as one look at the contributor list will tell you.

Withered Hand

New Gods

Fortuna Pop!, £12.99

* * * * *

Produced by Tony Doogan, whose high-profile successes on the Scottish music scene have included Mogwai, Belle & Sebastian and Teenage Fanclub, its guest roster includes the Belles’ Stevie Jackson and Chris Geddes, Frightened Rabbit’s Scott Hutchison, the Vaselines’ Eugene Kelly and Willson’s long-standing sponsor and bandmate in the Fence Collective, King Creosote.

New Gods is a record whose amiably DIY musical quality is perfectly matched with a lyrical tone which is at once tuned to a laser-like precision and helped no end by a voice which sounds agonised but still hopeful at every turn. The opening Horseshoe is a bittersweet summertime anthem which couches love and death in the same context, and the highs and lows of romance are also celebrated in the country symphony of Love Over Desire.

King Of Hollywood is a lively country rag whose Grand Ole Opry is more Glasgow than Nashville, and California is a gorgeous solo piece steeped in Americana which crashes in like The Needle And The Damage Done, with Willson “strung out like some powder in a bag of skin” waiting for epiphany at a burger counter.

It’s an album to sink into the heart rather than demand the attention, with Willson’s perfectly pitched emotional tone welcoming us into “my picket fence heart” on Between True Love And Ruin, sidestepping into atypically punk-pop territory amid Heart Heart and finishing on the sea shanty gospel of Not Alone.

Download: Between True Love And Ruin, Not Alone