The Changing Wilderness by Will StrattonRelease date: May 7, 2021
Label: Bella Union
New York singer-songwriter Will Stratton is a new artist to me. I had no previous knowledge of his music prior to hearing ‘Tokens’ from his seventh album The Changing Wilderness. Released on the can-do-no-wrong label Bella Union (hence my interest) this collection of exquisite acoustic driven folk/country contains some very lovely songs indeed. Self produced, every sound on the album is crystal clear and I heartily recommend earphones when listening to hear the arrangements up close and personal.
The press information that comes with the album alludes to some weighty topics in the lyrics but I have to be honest with you (apologies Will), I didn’t latch onto anything word-wise that I could truly decipher or relate to. But that should not deter you from delving in deep yourself, Will’s voice is a wonderful instrument in itself, his tones like a calmer Josh Tillman.
The album begins with the elegant ‘Tokens’, a lazy vocal melody rolls over delicately picked acoustic guitar and swirling instrumentation. Will’s voice is pure velvet and the atmosphere of the woozy song finds you wandering in grassy meadows on a summer day. Worries? What worries? ‘Black Hole’ adds a little shuffling percussion and some bubbling electronics, raising the tempo. Despite the dark leaning of the title, the song is a wondrously uplifting crossover of folk and country with some slide guitar floating in the heavenly mix. The word gorgeous springs to mind.
The blissful harmonised chorus of ‘Infertile Air’ brings on some serious twinges to the heart with a melody that oozes a weird combination of joy and melancholy. ‘The Rain’ features some dexterous acoustic finger picking with light embellishments of synths. I’m reminded a little of Bob Dylan in tender mode. Obviously Will’s voice is a much more tangible sound for your ears. Light a fire, listen to ‘Finally Free’ while watching the flames dance and flicker. It’ll enhance the listening experience no end.
In ‘Fate’s Ghost’, a sprightly synth pings about underneath the gently strummed guitars and swooning pedal steel allowing Will to ease out a languid melody. I find ‘When I’ve Been Born (I’ll Love You)’ a song that neither offends nor truly pleases. It’s got a sweet melody and lovely instrumentation but lacks a little something in terms of dynamics, until the song winds to an end. The simple melody and arrangement of ‘River Of Silver’ is lush and relaxing but suffers the same fate as the previous song by floating along on a flatline of mellow tones.
Brief ballad ‘Venus’ is full of hooky twists and turns, I imagine the aforementioned Father John Misty would enjoy crooning the nuances of melody that permeate the song. Album closer ‘Stillness’ brings in some delightful instrumentation to enhance the beautiful melody and it brings a warm peace and tranquillity.
It may not seem completely obvious from my review, but The Changing Wilderness is a really beautiful album. The level of detail in the playing and sumptuous arrangements throughout really do bring you to a place of serenity and calm. Every note is perfectly positioned creating an airy and spacious atmosphere that is truly an enjoyable experience. A perfect soundtrack for hazy Summer days.