Wooden Arms is Patrick Watson’s follow-up to the critically acclaimed Close to Paradise, which vaulted the man and his band to international stardom in 2007. In many ways Wooden Arms is the story and sound of a band waking up in strange places all around the world.
Whether it’s the bicycle-city sound of “Beijing,” or the warmth of “a hole in the wall” in “sweet New Orleans” on “Big Bird in a Small Cage,” or the haunting European waltz of the title track, you can’t help but feel in listening to Wooden Arms like you’re on the road with the band. Sometimes it’s dirty, sometimes it’s wild, but it’s never, ever boring.
Close to Paradise won Canada’s prestigious Polaris Prize in 2007, turning more than a few heads in beating out offerings from Arcade Fire and Feist, among others. By the time it saw release in the United States, Europe and Japan, the band was flying all over the world, garnering rave reviews for the album and their blistering live show alike.
When the dust had settled the band had written enough songs on the road to lay down a new record in a few short months at the end of 2008 in Montreal. On the album’s opener, “Fireweed,” Watson sings, “So we dug ourselves a hole, and planted all our skin; like a seed in the ground, to grow again.” And you can hear stripped down rejuvenation all over Wooden Arms; Watson’s voice and orchestrations shine brighter against a rhythmic percussive foundation that has been brought to the forefront.
But Wooden Arms isn’t just the sound of a band learning how to build a slicker wall of sound together. The playful album closer “Machinery of the Heavens” is almost a full on swing-tune; “Big Bird in a Small Cage” proves they’re capable of producing a perfect country-pop song, and fans of “The Great Escape” from Close to Paradise will have a hard-time resisting the heart-wrenching just-voice-and-guitar of “Man Like You.”
Perhaps most importantly though, Wooden Arms showcases both Watson and his bandmates as genuine composers, and the serious musicians that they are—from the orchestral pull of “Tracy’s Waters,” to Simon Angell’s noise-twang on “Traveling Salesman” to drummer Robbie Kuster’s jaw-dropping performances and his string piece “Hommage,” to the anchor of Mishka Stein’s bass on the instrumental freak-out number, “Down at the Beach.”
- 6-panel digipack with plastic tray, credits printed on inner booklet
- Secret City Records
- Patrick Watson and the Wooden Arms
- Patrick Watson / Jean Massicotte / Mathieu Parisien / Manuel Marie
- Ryan Morey
- Vocals / Piano / Memotron / Organ / Plunger / Megaphone / Acoustic guitar
- Acoustic guitar / Electric guitar / Banjo / Pedal steel / Charango / Lap steel
- Drums / Percussions / Marimbas / Treebranch / Acoustic guitar
- Backup vocals
- French horn
- Pedal Steel