DONOVAN WOODS - The Other Way (LP)
Label : Meant Well
Credits : Vocal engineering.
Donovan Woods could have taken the easy road on his new album, the shortcut that would have burnished an already acclaimed reputation as a singer and songwriter.
We’ve heard the songs on The Other Way before, back when they were collected on Both Ways, the artist’s 2018 release that scored him his first Juno Award, for contemporary roots album, earlier this year after a handful of previous nominations (including two nods for songwriter of the year).
Woods was curious: What if he re-recorded Both Ways, as “an acoustic reimagining,” and distilled its 12 songs to their bare essence? Where others might simply drill down to voice and guitar, or maybe even just streamline the original productions, Woods went widescreen with his vision.
“We started from scratch,” he says, from the instrumentation to his vocals to a fresh understanding of the pathos that underpin the stories he told with such abandon on Both Ways. “There are no recording elements carried over from that album. It’s all brand-new.” Set for release on May 3 on Meant Well, Woods’ own label, The Other Way brims with inspired interpretations that are intimate yet startling in their urgency. Granted, Woods has never exactly cloaked his lyrics in bells and whistles. Beginning with his 2009 debut, The Hold Up, there’s a reason why the Canadian artist has become such a sought-after songwriter whose work has been recorded by Tim McGraw (“Portland, Maine”) and Lady Antebellum’s Charles Kelley (“Leaving Nashville”), with Spotify streams approaching nearly 90 million. You’ve always been able to hear and connect with Woods’ words.
But an odd sensation washes over you when the varnish is wiped off of Woods’ songs. Somehow the lyrics burrow with even greater resonance and then linger like little smoke rings. The production on The Other Way is so vaporous at times that you might think these are the demo versions of the songs. You’d be wrong.