“A triumph of invention over ability” said a review of Dan Willson’s early work with former band Peanut. Well, no more, as his current incarnation, Withered Hand, starts to grow in stature. After his recent set on BBC 6Music, Withered Hand is hot property.
Now working as a solo singer/songwriter, with a little help from various friends for his live act (including members of Meursault, St. Jude’s Infirmary and eagleowl), Withered Hand has a new EP readied, entitled ‘You’re Not Alone’.
The record has been produced by Kenny Anderson of King Creosote fame and was recorded in a hall in the Fence folk hotbed of Anstruther. “For me, that is one of the biggest rewards of doing this, playing alongside friends and hearing my songs in a new light,” Willson says. The much anticipated debut album, aided by legendary American producer Kramer, is out in September.
At times painfully honest and introspective, Willson’s folk pop style marks him as an artist with a lot to say, and someone who manages to speak with a refreshing intelligence, placing him at the pinnacle of Edinburgh’s live music scene as a true must-see act.
Typically reclusive, fame now seems to be seeking Willson out, whether he wishes it or not. Sometimes talent wins out. Sighted last weekend in an impromptu performance alongside Meursault at the Meadows Festival, affectionately described by the aforementioned band’s lead singer Neil Pennycook as “ramshackle”, few would have realised the recent clamour surrounding the shy looking lad clutching a bag full of Gregg’s pasties, but Dan Willson is not your typical fame-seeking star.
2008’s Religious Songs EP gained Withered Hand wide ranging acclaim, but it was his early DIY records posted on the internet which led to him performing on the same bills as the likes of Frightened Rabbit, James Yorkston and Malcolm Middleton.
Based in Edinburgh for the last 13 years, Willson is quick to proclaim his love for the city, but admits to initially being “terrified of microphones”. Asked why he makes music, he states simply: “Because I can't really stop. I have tried. It is my way of making sense of being here. I used to draw a lot more and now I write songs. I have to have some kind of creative outlet otherwise I'm hell to be around”.
Willson says that his songs are “really just the sound of somebody who never thought they could ever do this, playing within their limitations. I would describe my songs as just a collection of my thoughts, with melodies that probably occurred to me in the grocery store or cycling home, sung as best I can over a bunch of chords”.
With typical modesty, Willson describes his sound as something which comes from within: “Apart from that it’s all the same twelve notes over and over again, like everything else”.
But it's really not just like anything else. It is the culmination of one of Scotland’s brightest singer/songwriter's talents; thoughtful, refreshing and full of insight. The new album promises to be something well worth the wait. You may have problems avoiding Withered Hand in the near future. And quite rightly so.
Posted by Stevie Kearney