Photo by Laura Lewis
Dan Willson likes to take his time. The Edinburgh-based songwriter makes music under the name Withered Hand, but he only seriously started at age thirty. His early creative years were spent in the visual arts, but after a close friend died, he turned to the guitar to pay tribute. The result was his 2009 debut, Good News, and a hard-touring lifestyle that’s more common for artists half his age.
He’s taken four years to craft a follow-up–an eternity in today’s music business–but the patience is rewarded. New Gods reassembles the ideas (and the title) first expressed on Good News and gives them a smart folk-pop sheen. Willson grew up in a strict Jehovah’s Witness household, and religious questions repeatedly pop up. His favorite topic, though, is time. “Black Tambourine” kicks off with a wistful turn-of-phrase: “I’m older now / and I feel the same / I’m not the same.” Over jangly guitars and a steady beat, Willson sounds both resigned and resilient, with wry observations–“some people stand in a line / just to stand in a line”–adding bite to a sweet, wistful tune.