George Woods – Heartbeat (2012)

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[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z4bsFH9UXFM&w=500&h=305]

From the quiet affirmations of this album’s opening stringed overture, George Woods sets a mood of heartfelt expectancy. Don’t get too comfy, though.

“Shake My Soul” follows like a breeze through a moonlit bedroom curtain, as Woods adds a warm, confidential lyric about the small things that bind us to those we love — whether they love us back or not. Subsequent tracks like “Chapter 3: The Moon,” “You Are the Moon” (both of them with this hypnotic swirl of voices and violins), “You Are The Sun” and the almost translucently fragile “Wedding Song” likewise point to Woods as a kind of mysterioso song stylist — adept at these almost ambient textures, punctuated only by this sharp, if often barely sung, dialogue.

But there’s more going on here, much more.

“Wasn’t Enough,” for instance, adds a up-tempo cadence, and a crunchy guitar. Into something that might be comparably called a maelstrom, steps Woods — though he is still talking about what we talk about when we talk about love: Not just the ass-over-tea kettle part, the getting-lost-in-her-eyes part, but also the doubting-it-can-last part … the part where you wonder if you should feel all that you’ve already admitted you feel. His approach to the vocal, however, matches this song’s sped-up mechanism, reaching to the top of his range for a new resiliency. “Stock in the Stars” begins inside the same crepuscular space as “Shake My Soul,” but then Woods adds a fun polyrhythm, and the resulting confection is the very sound of a smile.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_eTYO-otw3s&w=385&h=280]

“Marry Me” sidesteps the conventions of similarly themed songs by admitting, from the first, the kind of personal failures — he’s even getting thin on top! — that make every one of the thunderstruck admissions of ever-lasting love resonate more fully. “Running Away” starts out as a folk-tinged singer-songwriter paean to an earth girl, before catching a shambling country-rock vibe as Woods admits he’s never been that good at sticking around.

Meanwhile, the title track, “Lucky One” and “Trying to Get Back” delve into simmering R&B-stoked atmospheres, without ever straying too far from the album’s essential acoustic alchemy. In this way, Heartbeat feels at once layered and complex, but then also of a piece.

It’s an album — available now through BandCamp — that not only bears repeated listens, it rewards them.

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso has written for USA Today, American Songwriter, All About Jazz, and a host of others. Honored as columnist of the year five times by the Associated Press, Louisiana Press Association and Louisiana Sports Writers Association, he oversaw a daily section named Top 10 in the U.S. by the AP before co-founding Something Else! Nick is now associate editor of Ultimate Classic Rock.
Nick DeRiso
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