Review – Donovan Woods

Album: Without People
Release Date: November 6, 2020
Genre: Folk

Listening to the latest by Donovan Woods, one is bound to get at least a little bit emotional. On Without People, the Juno-winning artist from Ontario richly encapsulates the sensitivities inherent in the personal interactions that affect us most deeply. The album is folk with just a twinge of rock (for example, increasing elements of the latter can be heard across the progression of “Clean Slate”). It even gets a bit symphonic at times, as with the string section that brightly bolsters “Grew Apart” and “God Forbid.” But mostly, it’s acoustic guitar and keen, somewhat whispery vocals. It sonically entrances, while lyrically it’s poignant and relatable.

Donovan Woods eloquently sings of love, loss, and regret—of the complexity of feelings that come with any relationship, romantic or familial. Love, such as the appreciation shown in the words of “She Waits for Me to Come Back Down,” its memorable chorus aided by the pleasing voice of Nashville’s Katie Pruitt. Loss, like lines about pining for loved ones in the appropriately steady “Whatever Keeps You Going.” Regret, as shown in “Whole Way Home,” a song much distinguished by three piano chords repeated aback an unfolding narrative of the sort of night that just about anyone has looked back upon and thought, “What if?” The overall tone is solemn, yet full of hope, perhaps best emblemized by the track “Lonely People” with British singer Rhys Lewis, which seems to suggest that more of us experience that mood than we realize, yet because of that we’re actually less alone ourselves.

At every turn of Without People, Donovan Woods ruminates on what it is to not just be, but also truly feel, human. This is earnest musicianship at its best.

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