On Grace & Dignity

Feb 27, 2023
By Ian Rushbury

Web Exclusive

Benjamin Woods, the man behind The GOLDEN DREGS has joined the select group of baritones in popular music. He takes his place alongside Neil Diamond, Rick Astley, and Drake. Is that a club you’d want to belong to? Unperturbed by this association he turns in a great vocal performance on his band’s third album, the rather lovely On Grace & Dignity.

It’s no surprise that the album was partially recorded at Woods’ own house, as the album deals with personal struggles and belonging. Many of the songs, including the surprisingly airy “Vista,” have a real sense of place. “American Airlines” flips the scenario and deals with getting away from a situation—“Got to get away sometimes” nags the lyric. It seems to hint that it’s better to travel than to arrive.

As you’d expect from a record on 4AD, On Grace & Dignity moves slowly, at a stately pace. The mood is almost comically dark. When Woods sings, “And what a difference a day makes/And what a day to be alive,” on the angular, almost funky first single “Sundown Lake,” it’s a fairly safe bet he’s being tongue in cheek. With On Grace & Dignity all the instruments are given space to breathe. “Before We Fell from Grace” spins a circular melody over the simplest of chord progressions, meaning that the rich timbre of Woods’ voice takes center stage, only briefly punctuated by his sister’s saxophone interjections.

On Grace & Dignity is a confident and assured record with a real sense of purpose. The overall mood may be subdued, but there is a breadth of material here and all of it is worthy. This record may not see Mr Woods joining his fellow baritone Harry Styles at the top of the charts, but in a perfect world, he’d certainly be pretty close. (www.thegoldendregs.com)

Author rating: 7.5/10

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