A stripped-back and live acoustic guitar sound is how the opening track to Chris Wood’s latest offering opens up, and I must say the lack of overproduction is something I really appreciate. The guitar accompaniment to Wood’s poetic lyrics is in fact second only to the lyrics themselves; that is, an ability to tell a story with depth within a song that is unfortunately all too uncommon with other singer-songwriters. The accompanying notes describe a use of folk song as a social document to shine a light on times in disarray, and So Much To Defend, as a song at least, so far seems to do just that.
Two love songs pass by next, however. 'This Love Won’t Let You Fail' is a rather pleasant listen, with more poignant lyrics, though I think I’ll pass on 'Only A Friendly'; songs about football matches seem to sit badly in the mind. 'The Flail' gets the album back on track with its mission statement though, as a catchy dirge cleverly referencing Churchill’s (in)famous theory of history being written by winners. In fact, the song strikes me as slightly short; I do wish it went on longer to delve into historiographical theory, though that may just be me.
'1887', which is strangely omitted from the sleeve notes, explores feelings of republicanism – a topic rarely touched upon by folk singers and songwriters of the British Isles for obvious reasons; though, in my opinion, needed. A slow piano ballad also makes for a unique form of protest song; although the anger can be heard in Wood’s voice, it is not necessarily clear from the music, and that just makes it stick in the mind even more.
'Strange Cadence' is my favourite song so far musically, with a darker touch to the guitar playing and a jazzy edge provided from the brass in the background, and the lyrics continue to explore the themes of fabricated history that began in 'The Flail'. 'More Fool Me' foreshadows the end of the music industry, and despite that it still makes for a great singalong song; exactly the kind of song one can envision playing over a cinematic montage where the protagonist’s life is falling apart. That darker touch is something that was certainly missing from the earlier half of the album. I particularly like the free-metre ending with the guitar and banjo musically clashing.
'You May Stand Mute', as a musical tribute to Charles Darwin, makes for a superb ending then, to an album that started out so-so but, for the most part, only got better as it went along. The latter half, in my opinion, is certainly better than the first. Whilst none of the songs really “get going” in a rocky sort of way, they make for an interesting listen; albeit one that the audience really has to sit there and analyse to truly get something out of it. If you find yourself in the right frame of mind though, I am sure that you will be captivated.