Posts Tagged ‘James Jackson Toth’

One Eleven Heavy – “Mardi Gras”

Following up on Nick Mitchell Maiato’s Gems contribution from earlier in the week, the first single from One Eleven Heavy’s sophomore LP, Desire Path, arrives and it leaves a jagged rut on the lawn as it pulls away on rented wheels. “Mardi Gras” is steeped in the ‘70s lawless looseness that rock cribbed from its country kin just about the time Parsons caught the train outta here. The song knocks some well needed honkey-tonk into the tepid tea of 2019, feeding on the grass n’ gas vibes of Muscle Shoals bound Stones. It’s hinged on a Hans Chew piano pound that feels like he might tip over with every note, a third-degree rub of guitar that makes good on the band’s live reputation, and a soaring chorus that begs the listener to join in. Just a touch harder and hotter than they ran on the last album, the song’s still filled with their effortless ethos led by a Toth tale of a hapless gambler who can’t face his truth.

“‘Mardi Gras’ is part of a tradition of songs about delusional luckless losers,” elaborates the band’s James Toth. “I don’t believe for a second that this character’s ship will ever come in; his destiny is in many ways preordained. And yet he is sincere in his belief that his luck will turn around if only he could get that one lucky break. In some ways it’s an allegory but I prefer the literal take: this guy is almost certainly going to let you down.” “It is also one of several of my songs to wedge in an obscure reference to the television program The Honeymooners,” adds Toth. “Spot the others!”

The album lands September 20th on Beyond Beyond is Beyond and I’d wholeheartedly recommend tucking into it in its entirety.

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One Eleven Heavy – “Old Hope Chest”

Last week I mentioned the growing presence of a new crop of bands raised on soundboard rips and zine culture conversations regarding which night held the true elevation of a solo from rote to enlightened and this week I’m introducing the first taste of one of the best of what’s next. While over time the mere implication of a band leaning jam seemed to set higher-handed listeners hackles on full alert, now that niche is king and cultures upon sub-cultures have cropped up quicker than crabgrass in internet back-alleys there’s a growing demand for bands that process their love of Little Feat, NRBQ, Levon, Trux and the Dead without worrying about cultural cache. There’s a demand and 2018 is bursting to contain the response.

Let’s not go throwing around that itchy term ‘Supergroup’ here but, be fair, there’s an overabundance of talent coursing through the veins of One Eleven Heavy. Started as a gauntlet thrown by James Toth (Wooden Wand) to fellow traveller Nick Mitchell Maiato (Desmadrados Soldados De Ventura) “Old Hope Chest” was conceived to “rise above the mundane, descriptive, lifestyle narratives of contemporary singer-songwriting.” It was, they decided, “Something that connects to our shared rock tradition and celebrates our musical identity without the apology of irony.” The track swings on groove and taps into a collective consciousness of what was actually “classic” about rock, without being dictated by what was pressed, sold or spun through the static crackle of radio. This echoes the ’72-’74-era Grateful Dead as it was lived in the room, and not as it was felt from the runout.

Joining in this crack team of cosmic workmen is Hans Chew (Hiss Golden Messenger/Jack Rose/Endless Boogie), Ryan Jewell (Ryley Walker band/Psychedelic Horseshit), and Dan Brown (Royal Trux/’68 Comeback) and the LP opens up shop as the first release on Scott McDowell’s (WFMU/ 120 Minutes) new label Kith & Kin. So, yeah, like I said this one’s not treading lightly. Drop into “Old Hope Chest” below and get prepped and hydrated to receive Everything’s Better in September.



Support the artist. Buy it HERE.

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Wooden Wand

Perhaps there has been no more steady hand guiding Raven Sings the Blues than the presence of James Toth’s Wooden Wand. Since the site began in 2006, there have been myriad releases from Toth and as I’ve changed, so has the music of Wooden Wand blossomed from noise experiments with The Vanishing Voice, to psych-folk’s crowning glory and on into a pure distillation of Americana that rings far from the hollow brand of weekend alt-country that so many Brooklyn pickers would adopt fecklessly over the years. No, Toth has always been independent music’s poet laureate, whether he’s got the onion skin to prove it or not, we all know its true.

On Clipper Ship, his first album in three years (a relative dearth in terms of Toth’s output), he crafts an album that puts the musical heft ahead of the lyrical focus. A groundswell of his fellow craftsmen have found their way to the studio for this dragging the net from Glenn Kotche (On Fillmore, Wilco) and Jim Becker (Califone, Iron & Wine) to Zak Riles (Watter, Grails) and sought after sidemen Luke Schneider (Margo Price, JEFF The Brotherhood, Natural Child) and Jim Elkington (Tweedy, Richard Thompson, Steve Gunn). The songs jut out from the piers of Fahey and Basho and then tumble into endless buzzing drones and blissful hums. Stripped of the words this would rival any Scissor Tail release for acoustic dominance.

Though that’s not to discount the lyrics on Clipper, they’re as literate and as personal as ever, lending the album Toth’s own brand of rural mesquite, a woodsiness that flecks each song with a mouthful of smoke. In his aim to construct an album that stands alone on it’s instrumentation, he’s succeeded and then some. Combined, however, the instrumental acumen and lyrical quality push this towards one of Toth’s finest releases. The lyrics suggest a haunted America; full of murder ballads and codeine comedowns for a generation adrift and reaching, grasping and grappling with truths that seem to grow less plausible every day. Toth has said that in the wake of 2016’s political heft, he may slow down output, not wanting to add to a glut of musical content out there. But if the spigot slows and each new release is of this caliber, then I’m on board for the wait.




Support the artist. Buy it HERE.

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James Jackson Toth on Japan – Tin Drum

The latest installment of Hidden Gems comes from a longtime RSTB favorite. I think it’s fair to say that without Wooden Wand, Raven wouldn’t have shaped up the way it did in those early years. When I happened on a great set by James, billed to open for Jack Rose in a cramped bar in Greenpoint back in 2005, Harem of the Sundrum and the Witness Figg quickly became a fixture on the turntable and a desire to spread some of the WW gospel was born. Below Toth shares a record that’s made an impact in his own life and how it crept in and took hold.

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Wooden Wand – “Mexican Coke” + Carlos The Second

Good news today out of the Wooden Wand camp, there’s a new album on the way from Three-Lobed, Clipper Ship. The album arrives in May and is preceded by the gorgeous new single “Mexican Coke,” a sighed country ode to having to supplement income with side hustles. The album marks a shift away from Toth’s last few, stripping back to more of the sing-songwriter countenance that permeated his lone album for Rykodisc under his given name. The album boasts an impressive supporting cast of players ranging from Wilco’s Glenn Kotche to session stars like Darin Gray, Ryan Norris, Jim Becker, Luke Schneider, Zak Riles and Jim Elkington. All the players have contributed to accomplished visions of folk and country over the past few years and they bring that drive and finesse to Clipper Ship. Its been a touch since Toth had a Wooden Wand album out and it feels good to have one on the way for sure.


The announcement makes the news doubly good today because while we were all wrapped up in the tail end tail spin of 2017, James and a few friends slipped an album out under the name Carlos The Second. It features some nuanced instrumentals from Ryan Norris (who also appears on the new album) and sets Toth’s honeyed croon agaist some starker than usual settings, and even a smattering of beat driven tracks. Its new territory for sure, but fits well into a catalog that never shies away from collaboration. As an added bonus, Langhorne Slim swings by for a flat-out wonderful country rocker that has both singers at their best. Check out “Hall Of Mirrors” below:

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