Despite 15 very fine releases, David Wilcox has never really gotten the enduring gigantic reception he so richly deserves. I'd become aware of him after hearing the epochal How Did You Find Me Here? and picking up the disc many years ago in the used racks of a local Wherehouse. He later passed through SoCal, playing the Hermosa Beach Theater, a small venue superbly suited to the troubador's style. I was enthralled not only by the man's songs but also his amazing dexterity. He must have changed tunings practically every song, telling stories while doing so, singing and playing with infinite hope and positivity even when lamenting the many foibles of the human condition. I left the concert hall that night rather stunned, struck by the uniqueness and integrity of his artistry.
You might say Wilcox is a blend of Kenny Loggins, Michael Tomlinson, Richard Torrance, Chris DeBurgh, and others, but I've also always seen him as a kind of male version of one of modern folk's female luminaries, Joni Mitchell. He just has that magnetic quality Joni possesses, not to mention her frequently understated swing and gambol. And if there's an old-time feel to this disc, it's because it was recorded on two-inch 16-track analogue tape in just a week...like the old days when inspired musicians ran into the studio, poured forth their genius, documented it, and we became the enraptured beneficiaries. The backing on Open Hand is fairly minimal, mainly Wilcox and his guitar way up front, a rather intimate approach. Nonetheless, the subdued backgrounds greatly enhance atmospheres track to track, achieving a return to the busking backbone of folk while quietly enhancing it.
Open Hand is a very mellow release, as though the composer has lately been reflecting on his life, perhaps preparing to write a novel or biography, maybe thinking about painting. As ever, Wilcox issues wry commentary on the Modern World throughout the repertoire, including an instance of directly taking it to the Baby Boomers and their abundant hypocrisies (ah, how easily the hippy days were abandoned once a corporate dollar was waved in front of our snouts!)…and he is, like I am, a Baby Boomer. Honesty has always been a hallmark of the Wilcox oeuvre.
If you're not already familiar with this guy, then I envy you. You can start wherever you please in his backlog, though this is as good a place as any, and find yourself instantly enthralled, traveling back to the days when John Sebastian, Arlo Guthrie, Tom Waits, Richie Havens, and all the idiosyncratic folk writers were in their halcyon periods. Wilcox is just as timeless as they, just as entrancing, and just as unique.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2009, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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