Riding the line between old-school folk and country straight into a heap of psychedelia is Australian singer-songwriter Tom Woodward. Sonically speaking, Woodward’s sound lies somewhere between Donovan, Campbell, and the soundtrack to outer space.
Previously, when For Folk’s Sake had covered Woodward’s titular leading single, ‘Beautiful Shadows’, we had placed an emphasis on the psychedelic folk artist’s life and how it imitates art. The work, as a singular entity representative of Woodward and all that he is and does, does exceptionally well in its display of ethereal, quirky, and self-possessed songwriting for sure. When juxtaposed against the entirety of the album of the same name, however, it’s but one cog that fits into place to fuel a tremendous machine.
Woodward isn’t just an offbeat purveyor of the dark and ironic, but an upbeat explorer of a myriad of sounds that collectively piece together his style. Where ‘Beautiful Shadows’ operates from a spacey and brooding, folksy state of mind, album opener ‘Run Run Run’ has more in common with the synthetic pop of the 1980s. Elsewhere, ‘Black Hole in My Heart’ plays with a soundscape centered around a piano riff that carries listeners on a journey through Latin-style jazz and ‘Timeless Terrain’ is a lulling and ominous ballad akin to the place from which songwriters from John Lennon to Josh Tillman have previously operated.
Beautiful Shadows, on the overall, is a captivating record. All together, yes, it and he are altogether offbeat and captivating, often embracing irony and sarcasm beside the standard folk authenticity to set the album’s tone as psychedelic records have historically done. But, there is something uniquely Woodward’s here once you’ve broken it into individual song and really take each for what they are on a singular level as well as a whole. This, perhaps, is best seen in the emotion evoked from the album’s final track, ‘My Way or the Highway’.
Words by: Jonathan Frahm