Every year Record Store Day sees long queues of shoppers snaking round the street, full of die-hard fans and hunters clamouring for a piece of prize vinyl. Thankfully some releases surface later as a wider release for those who miss out, or are too pacifist to fight someone at the tills for a limited edition disc. This release from Fire is such a beast, comprised of two EPs making up the A and B sides of the original twelve-inch. The two acts complement each other in this re-release described as the sound of “two wood men on one album”.
Given current sporting events football analogies are a little hackneyed, but the disc is certainly a game of two halves. Side A sees Duke Garwood take centre stage with a mixture of psych folk and blues. His contribution makes full use of the unconventional nature of this release, starting with Sweet Mary Come Down – a track full of classical Middle Eastern guitar playing that sounds like a cross between early Animal Collective and a choir of ghostly, overlaid tremolos. Perhaps disconcertingly the track that follows carries on in a similar vein and is, to the untrained ear, virtually indistinguishable from the disc’s opener. Thereafter Garwood returns to these shores with more conventional work. The brief Some Kind of Move is a brief, laid back highlight, as is Fortune (Grace The Days) with its baseline sounding like Beck’s Loser after being left in the wash.
Garwood’s contribution is wildly batty; overdubs of chewed up reel to reel are deployed at one stage and there’s a fair share of muffled, distant mumbling in the lyrics. It’s an audacious move, but after gaining a following supporting Kurt Vile and Mark Lanegan you might be expecting more for this artist.
Side B sees Wooden Wand grasp the relay baton with confidence. James Jackson Toth’s outfit are a far more conventional listen, and although the boozy Americana scene can be a little overcrowded at times, it’s worth making space at the table for these five tracks. Highlights include Navy Blue, a track that sounds like The Low Anthem being fronted by a drunken Joey Ramone. Sediment Traps contains just the right amount of histrionics to please, and the closer Wooley Blue is really great.
Given that it’s never been intended to be a coherent EP it’s perhaps unfair to give this album an overall rating. Sides A and B form a ying and yang and you’re likely to favour one or the other. Garwood’s section is varied and challenging but perhaps too off-putting for some and Wooden Wand could just as easily alienate those wanting something more than loveably ramshackle Americana. Left to their own devices their shtick works really well, but a true collaboration would be more of an essential listen.