Dan Patlansky spent part of 2012 on an acoustic tour through his native South Africa which led to the release of Wooden Thoughts. You can read Dan’s thoughts from that tour here on Blues Rock Review. Unplugged offerings from an electric blues rocker usually are cause for a little trepidation. This however is everything you could want from an acoustic album. Dan doesn’t need to hide behind the screaming overdrive and effects pedals to make up for any holes in his guitar skills.
The album consists of excellently done cover songs, new originals, and two excellent renditions of previously recorded Patlansky originals. The album starts out with “Miss Owee,” which is a fast paced blues influenced tune that clearly lets you know that this is not going to be a boring exercise in strumming an acoustic guitar. The use of overtone harmonics on an acoustic in the middle of the song just enforces the fact that Dan’s guitar skills are truly first rate. The blues are clearly represented and given their proper due with a driving version of Son House’s “Preachin’ Blues.” A slide resonator guitar sets the old school blues tone which is then joined to a heavy rhythm section that drives the tune along. You can’t help but nod along with the beat as Dan slides up and down the neck of that resonator. “Wagon Wheel” which was originally written by Bob Dylan but recorded by Old Crow Medicine Show has the appropriate folk country lilt and displays some excellent finger picking skills. The blues are again represented with Jimmy Reed’s “Bright Lights, Big City.” Dan’s guitar is appropriately mellow here while his vocals carry most of this song until the solo break when he lets loose with a torrent of notes and some very interesting double stop work.
Things slow down in the middle of the album when we get the most surprising song on this album, a cover of “Hallelujah” by Leonard Cohen. Dan’s voice and the solo guitar to start the song create a haunting atmosphere that continues as the song builds to the end. Next up is the hypnotic rhythm of the Patlansky original instrumental “Kwazi.” Led Zeppelin’s “Kashmir” is brilliantly reworked. It doesn’t lose any of the majestic power of the original. The final cover is a song that has influenced generations of popular music, The Band’s “The Weight.”
The album finishes out with the reworking of “Big Things Going Down” from Dan’s 2009 Move My Soul album. The original is an almost 10 minute slow blues filled with rapid fleeting runs up and down the fret board. For the acoustic version, Dan shortened the song to five minutes and slows things down even more. Losing the quick fingers for much of the song and letting the space between the decaying acoustic tones convey as much as the notes themselves. You can hear his fingers slide up and down the strings and the little rhythmic percussion of the strings slapping the fret board. This is followed up by “Bring The World to Its Knees” from his previous album, 20 Stones. It misplaces none of the punch of the original with its translation to acoustic. Instead the essence of the song is laid bare and the powerful guitar riff that the song is written around has no choice but to carry the song. The acoustic format forces a song to really stand on its own. The final track is another short instrumental, “Kaynin,” which is the only somewhat disappointing track on this album, and only because it ends just as it seems to be getting started.
The pared back sound of an acoustic guitar leaves nowhere for a musician to hide. The engineering of this album is excellent. You’ll feel like you’re sitting on the sound stage with the band and the lack of sustain inherent to an acoustic guitar makes for a raw, open expanse of sound that forces Dan to work that much more creatively to fill the space. Wooden Thoughts delivers a different musical experience from the standard blues rock and does not disappoint.
The Review: 9/10
Can’t Miss Tracks
– Big Things Going Down
– Miss Owee
– Bring The World To Its Knees
The Big Hit
– Bring The World To Its Knees
Review by Kevin O’Rourke