Album Review: Austin Meadows Wilkerson, “The Old Wood”

I hadn’t heard Austin Wilkerson’s music until a few months ago, and frankly, I’m surprised and a bit saddened that I missed out on his gorgeous blend of smart folk and chamber classical. His 2017 album, Altriusms, had somehow slipped under my radar. It wasn’t until a friend of mine shared his latest album, The Old Wood, with me, that I was immediately mesmerized by the ethereal beauty of this album.

Austin Meadows Wilkerson’s The Old Wood is a realized, magical world in which the listener can immerse themselves completely. The first thing one might notice is the cover art by the late Eyvind Earle (perhaps known for his famous backgrounds in Disney movies such as Sleeping Beauty), which depicts a mysterious, colorful forest scene, along with a title in gorgeously illuminated letters. Cover art can be either important or inconsequential, and I feel that The Old Wood is a perfect example of how carefully and thoughtfully selected album art can perfectly compliment a listening experience.

From the kaleidoscopic arpeggios that we first hear in “Overture”, we can already tell that we’re in for an unusual journey. The first track perfectly segues into album opener “The Old Wood”, which is one of the leading singles for this album. The strong melodies, combined with the delicate orchestration, make this a standout track, and the charming video is a fantastic introduction to Austin’s sound and vibe.

I’ve listened to this album a number of times, and while I feel like this album is brilliant as a whole, there are certain tracks that I anticipate. The aforementioned “The Old Wood” is a favorite. I love the sonic journey of “Bed of Leaves”- each second turns more cinematic as we descend deeper into the proverbial woods. And the 8th track, “Things That I’ve Lost”, is a lovely, ponderous track that is augmented by an absolutely stunning video by Darien Fisher. The song is both lovely and unsettling, and the video is perfectly complimentary.

The Old Wood is, for the most part, a calming, peaceful album, but the serenity is broken up by swells of palpable tension that contract and expand like an accordion. Austin’s tender voice alone is very pleasant, but the lush, complex instrumental arrangements (brought to life by a long, talented list of musicians) that accompany him in each song give this album a tremendous boost- if his voice is the mysterious warble that that lulls you into the woods, the instrumental parts and harmonies are like the tangled canopy of leaves and vines and flowers and roots that both beautify and obscure the path forward. They all work together to create a stunning sylvan soundscape; a dense, enticing forest of sound that is a delight to explore. In short, Austin Meadows Wilkerson’s The Old Wood is a gem, and I very much look forward to what Austin has in store for us for the future.

Austin Meadows Wilkerson’s The Old Wood was released independently on December 11, 2020. Buy it here.

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