"Cocaine and bourbon, pinball and pool," sums up James Jackson Toth — or nearly sums up, as the former lo-fi, acid-folk leader of Wooden Wand pawns his last bag of 'shrooms for a walk on Lou Reed's wild side and a bender with John Lennon slurring in his ear. On this year's solo debut, Waiting In Vain, the New York-born songwriter (now living just outside of Nashville) fleshes out his desperate portraits of barfly schemers and dope alley dreamers with the sweetest, piano-based country soul strolls and a beggar's banquet of Stones rock. Toth's drawling sneer cuts through the dark mood like a glinting blade; when he sings, "I am the lie in disbelief" and "the rage in tragedy," you don't have to wonder if it's a put-on. His fictions feel fierce and earned.
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