Essential New Music: Wooden Wand’s “Clipper Ship”

Clipper ships were the FedEx of their day, the high-priced, high-speed shipping option for merchants who needed to get their tea or opium from one corner of the globe to another in a hurry. It’s an ironic title for an album of mid-tempo or slower songs that follows its predecessor by a good three years, but it does capture something of the grace that Wooden Wand main man James Toth’s melodies express. While it looks like a continuation of the methods that generated its predecessor, Farmer’s Corner—poetic singer/songwriter records with a cast of ringers who’ve written names like Tweedy and O’Rourke on their collective CV—the process this time was enacted in reverse. The words came after the music, which may explain their economy. But Toth’s spare lines still keep you listening and wondering, reeling you in to music that starts out gently lyrical and ends up as immersive as the sea.

—Bill Meyer