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David Wilcox
Open Hand

Review By Steven Stone
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  David Wilcox personifies the sensitive singer-songwriter. But instead of being a caricature or falling into well-worn shtick, Wilcox continues to delve ever deeper into the center of his own special world.

The twelve new original songs on Open Hand share Wilcox’s unique melodic sensibility. His tunes have a certain comfortable familiarity yet they never travel where you expect them to go. His rhythms are more intricate and jazz-inflected than most folk performers. His lyrics display a preoccupation with personal and interpersonal issues. On the almost conventional blues tune, "Modern World," Wilcox examines how current events influence his emotions. His world moves from inward out rather than the other way.  Wilcox’s protest songs stem from how the external affects his inner world. Wilcox says, "I put together a bunch of songs and I look at them and say, 'Who am I now? What’s the place in my life that this music speaks to?’"

On his fifteenth release Wilcox went "old school" with two-inch sixteen track analog tape in Ferndale California’s Sonic Temple Studios. Wilcox said, "The last few projects, I've recorded with ProTools in my home studio. The cool part of recording to analog tape is there's no pitch correction, no covering mistakes -- it really makes the whole process a work of art." On Open Hand Wilcox employed a core band of James McAllister on drums and percussion, Jon Evans on acoustic and electric bass, and producer Dan Phelps on keyboards and electric guitar. On several cuts Wilcox brought in champion musical saw player Steve Porter to add otherworldly Theremin-like sounds.

Although he only allotted seven days to record the whole album, including overdubs, Open Hand doesn’t sound rushed or like a bargain basement budget recording. The main recording took only three days and the rest of the studio time was reserved for overdubs. The overall sound is warm and intimate with no ornate instrumental distractions. This is very much a songwriter’s album, where the songs are at the forefront. Sure, Wilcox’s vocals have his trademark velvety finesse, but the words and melodies are the stars here.

 

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