Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

Consumer Guide:
  User's Guide
  Grades 1990-
  Grades 1969-89
  And It Don't Stop
  Book Reports
  Is It Still Good to Ya?
  Going Into the City
  Consumer Guide: 90s
  Grown Up All Wrong
  Consumer Guide: 80s
  Consumer Guide: 70s
  Any Old Way You Choose It
  Don't Stop 'til You Get Enough
Xgau Sez
  And It Don't Stop
  CG Columns
  Rock&Roll& [new]
  Rock&Roll& [old]
  Music Essays
  Music Reviews
  Book Reviews
  NAJP Blog
  Rolling Stone
  Video Reviews
  Pazz & Jop
Web Site:
  Site Map
  What's New?
Carola Dibbell:
  Carola's Website
CG Search:
Google Search:

Withered Hand

  • Good News [Absolutely Kosher, 2011] A-
  • New Gods [Slumberland, 2014] A
  • How to Love [Reveal, 2023] A

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Good News [Absolutely Kosher, 2011]
Somebody with more youth cred than me should tell a world that takes EMA seriously about backslid Edinburgh Christian Dan Willson, whose wife bought him an acoustic guitar for his 30th birthday so he'd have something he could sing louder than. Quavering wordy tunes that make Belle and Sebastian sound like the Beach Boys, only he has a band and they really are tunes, he surveys his doubt-ridden world with uneasy resolve and disillusioned, self-deprecating wit. A few couplets of a shaky anthem called "Religious Songs" suggest what he's capable of: "I don't really know what the wine was for/cos if it was Jesus' blood wouldn't there be more"; "Well, I beat myself off when I sleep on your futon/I walk in the rain with my secondhand suit on"; "'How does he expect to be happy/when he listens to death metal bands.'" A-

New Gods [Slumberland, 2014]
Almost 40 as he released his second album, Edinburgh singer-songwriter Dan Willson is one of those walking miracles who writes songs that seem simple until you try to think who they remind you of and pretty much stop at Neil Young, may the force be with him. Except insofar as they're also songs about losing God, they're songs about finding a better if by no means simple substitute. Which is love, of course, easy to say and hard to do in art and life both. Horny on tour, he remembers her entreating "Don't go breaking my heart." Taking a drive in the country, he wants to lick the tears from her face but can't unblock his own heart. Telling her she'll be beautiful yet again, he imagines tongues of fire above their heads. A

How to Love [Reveal, 2023]
If you can't quite recall Edinburgh sufferer Dan Willson, who leads and is Withered Hand, no worries--after a relatively prolific half decade that ended circa 2014, he slipped from view because he couldn't afford to record anymore. But he never got over his passion for song, and the nine he's moved to deliver a decade later suggest he never stopped writing them either. Raised Jehovah's Witness in London, he rejected that faith but named his band after the sufferer in a New Testament parable, which is why it's a little hard to know whether loving God is a bigger thing for him than loving the right human being when he reports in re love "I'm not afraid to try/I'm afraid of trying and not feeling good enough." Musically, the new songs are no less poignant and fetching than the old ones, each the emotional equal of titles like "How to Love," "Crippled Love," "Still Quiet Voice," and "Comedown." Just about every track mitigates the pain with a simple, irresistible melody. And since part of Willson's story is that his wife bought him his first guitar when he turned 30, some two decades ago now, human being fans will be glad to learn that the credits report that "Eva W" is part of the "WH Salvation Choir" that chimes in on so many of these tracks. A

See Also