James Toth, songwriter and lyricist for Wooden Wand, commemorates his first year as a Richmond resident with his newly released album, Clipper Ship.
Toth and his wife moved to Richmond around July of last year, and coming from Kentucky, the couple was excited to become a part of Richmond’s city life, and experience the music culture the city had to offer.
With Church Hill displayed as the focal point of his album cover art, Toth expresses his connection to Richmond as a new stage in his life and a new venture for Wooden Wand’s music.
“We’re living in Richmond when this record came out,” Toth said. “We may not be living in Richmond when the next record comes out, but it commemorates what I think is a beautiful neighborhood.”
Clipper Ship, which dropped in May on Three Lobed Recordings, follows album covers like Freewheelin’ by Bob Dylan, or Paul’s Boutique by the Beastie Boys. He wanted to capture where he has been, and create a photomontage of his travels as he develops a sense of place within his music.
“It’s a part of a tradition of album covers being in iconic places,” Toth said.
As for Clipper Ship, Toth took a different avenue for his writing style when piecing the songs together. Instead of focusing on the melody and lyrics, he decided to start with the music first, and let the lyrics flow in succession.
“The music my wife and I listen to at home are mainly instrumental, so I was thinking of what it would be like to make a record without the consideration of the song as a vehicle for words,” he said.
One song that comes to mind is “One Can Only Love.” The song creates a melancholy vibe and drifts the listener into an America found in the backcountry. With a mixture of folky rhythms and parts featuring the dulcimer, Nathan Salsburg and Zak Riles work with Toth to build off of each other as the song comes to completion.
“One can’t just believe, but one can only love,” Toth said. “Love is paramount, and sometimes it’s difficult to believe in things, whether it’s a faith in the hereafter, or a faith in the government, or a faith in people in general.”
Perspective is key, and Toth democratically uses a variety of viewpoints in his culmination of Clipper Ship. Like with “One Can Only Love,” Toth wants the listener to find something to believe in and connect with. With political unrest and the disengagement between parties and people, Toth sends a message of cooperation and care for one’s place and one’s people.
“I like to think that records are little messages in a bottle, and some people get the messages, and some people don’t, but it’s there for people who need it,” he said.
Check out Wooden Wand’s new album, Clipper Ship, on band camp and look out for James Toth as he makes his way to Richmond July 12th at Strange Matter.