Recorded by Adrian Griego at Synchro Studios in Albuquerque, New Mexico in the winter of 2013. Album art by Kristin Fleming.
-ABQ Weekly Alibi-
The Genuine Article
AJ Woods proves folk-rock mettle
BY GEOFFREY PLANT
There is a crop of younger folk-rock musicians in Albuquerque who stand out from the crowd thanks to genuinely interesting songwriting and talented performances, and AJ Woods' eponymous new album clearly places him in this cadre of musicians. Backed by stellar local folk band Wildewood, Woods delivers his melancholy lyrics about existence with a certain cadence that heightens the appeal of his well-crafted and unpretentious poetry. People generally describe his music as haunting, which is as good an adjective as any. Best of all, I can honestly say that this recording isn't boring; Woods really knows how to sing a song, and there isn't a dud in this batch of ecstatic dirges. When it comes down to it, Woods' style is reminiscent of Bill Callahan or Jason Molina, the suicide behind Songs: Ohia and Magnolia Electric Co.―whose music conveyed a confidence in one's mistakes, the sense that regret and failure are ordinary―while still sounding original and somehow very Albuquerque.
Following in The Saltine Ramblers' footsteps, Woods' album is a cassette release. I'm conflicted about this. On the one hand, cassettes are the cheapest analog format around, and musicians can frugally produce a product that arguably has more substance than the average independent CD release. Many are the times I've taken a chance on a cheap cassette being sold at a show, a chance I never would have taken on a more expensive record or CD version. Existing on the fringe of the music business and issued almost exclusively by weirdoes, cassettes are a low-risk format, and there is a lot to be said for that. Against all odds tapes are regaining popularity. There is, I kid you not, an International Cassette Store Day. The cynic in me appreciates that so much more than the preening, limited-edition, pants-peeing phenomenon we know as Record Store Day.
On the other hand, who the fuck has a tape player? If your 1988 Volvo still has one, odds are it's broken or has an irremovable Soundgarden cassette stuck in it. The percentage of the population with decks at home has to be next to none. Tapes don't wear well. They hiss. That said, this release is right at home on cassette for some reason, so let's just go with it. The recording, done at Synchro Studio, isn't the highest of fi in the first place, but the music transcends all that. It's a neat package with nice artwork and a download code. The tape I received is yellow, which pleases the hell out of the part of me that's nostalgic for the ROIR cassettes of the ’80s. On tape or downloaded via Bandcamp, you won't be disappointed. This guy's for real.
Come celebrate this monument to obscurity at AJ Woods' tape release on Monday, March 10, at Separation Gallery (900 Fourth Street SW). Also on the bill are San Diego-based Labs and Seattle's Julie Byrne, whose prettily depressive oeuvre promises to be a highlight. Albuquerque songstress Javelina opens. Cover is $5, and the party starts at 7pm.
-Tiny Mix Tapes-
AJ Woods [CS; Tinyamp Records]
By STRAUSS on Jun 26 2014
I wonder if people think there’s some kind of unwritten rule that new music out on cassette has to be weird or progressive? I’ll admit that maybe 70 percent of the tapes walked up to my door by Mr. Postman are indeed of the whack-job variety (which is great!), but any die-hard Cerberus follower should know by now that artists of all shapes, sizes and sounds are turning to tapes to spread their accessible missives to the mini-masses as well. The reasons for and advantages to having your music released on this format are many and have been so described, despite the quarterly-or-so assertions from major publications who still seem to think that the cassette is dead, or should be put to death in an expedient and gruesome manner. Well, I guess that means there are more of the 100-or-less copies of tapes like this lovely folk song collection from Albuquerque’s AJ Woods for you and me to flip at leisure, dear Cerberus reader. And leisure is what it’s all about here with the breezy and easy, hammock-swinging tunes sung on this tape. Don’t worry about any cassette warble here, that’s the endearing quake of Woods’ croon, a meek but strongly delivered voice, cracked under the pressure of upper-octave reach to reveal each song’s own little passions. All eight are minor-keyed, but in their soft sadness gaze up longingly with a starry-eyed wonder that feels hopeful and a little hopeless at the same time. Except “Creosote,” – that one is a trudger, bleak and blackened with coal soot. Most of what we hear comes from Woods himself, on guitar, vox, and a little harmonica, but he also put a nice little band together for a couple of songs, including horns, organ, mandolin, and a sobbing pedal steel that underscore’s the record’s Southern twang. Since I can’t invite Woods or Clay Cantrell to come out to the Mountains personally, I’m sure glad to have a boombox and these tapes as my official camping companions this summer. So again: thanks, cassette tapes! You’re the best, but you already knew that.
released 26 April 2013
Adam Woods: vocals, acoustic guitar, harmonica.
David "Pancho Sombrero" Schripsema: vocals, horns, organ.
Meredith Wilder: vocals
Alexander Thomas McMahon: pedal steel
Michael Gibson: organ, mandolin
Thanks to Derek Caterwaul, KUNM music to sooth the savage beast, Wildewood, 1Kind Productions, Tinyamp Records