Album Review – Withered Hand


Withered Hand -‘Good News’ (SL Records)

So, yes. This has been out for three months now. I’d been trying to buy a copy for ages, and then when all hope seemed gone, Ed Pybus who runs SL Records got in touch. They were waiting for fresh stock, but in the meantime, here was a free download copy. Bless you.

Withered Hand is the work of one man from Edinburgh, Dan Willson. Hotly acclaimed and rightly so, for his two EPs Religious Songs and You’re Not Alone, this album was produced by the legendary Kramer, who has worked with Low, Galaxie 500 and Daniel Johnstone. So, for starters, it sounds absolutely great.

But that’s far from being all. He writes great songs, does our Mr. Willson, neat melodies, but his overall strength is as a lyricist. ‘Religious Songs’ itself manages to gently work in (rather than cram) more lyrical ideas and thoughts in four and a half minutes than some people manage in an entire career. Themes about religion (the sense of someone who has found himself trapped in an evangelical church during a communion service comes across very strongly in this album, though I may be reading way too much into it), masturbation, love, sex…if anyone thinks that sincerity is dead in the British Isles and we’re all obssessed with being ironic, they should listen to this album. ‘I knew you so long I ran out of cool things to say’ he sings on ‘Religious Songs.’ I challenge any hipster to come out with a line as good as that. Or indeed ‘I beat myself off when I sleep on your futon/I walk in the rain with my second-hand suit on.’ It’s not, say, Rum Sodomy and the Lash, but you might not want to play this album in front of your grandparents or anyone of a slightly, shall we say, conservative nature.

Their loss, though. Because this album grabs you from the first listen. And it becomes as addictive as a Class-A drug (though presumably without the health side effects. I’m guessing). Over the last ten days this has barely been away from the stereo, and even though I got a copy for free I’m going to buy it again. Because that’s the kind of recognition and seal of approval it deserves. Songs like ‘Providence’ and ‘No Cigarettes’ should be heard by as many people as possible. SL Records may well have signed one of Scotland’s best ever songwriters. And you can quote me on that.

This was, deservedly, in many people’s end of year best of lists. And I’m now thinking these things should be done a little while later. Get yourself a copy, somehow.


Withered hand -‘Religious Songs.’ mp3

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.