Published May 03, 2019By stripping down the songs from his masterful 2018 LP Both Ways on the newly released The Other Way, Donovan Woods has put a fresh spin on the acoustic release. Sure, like most such pared-down collections of previously released, studio-glossed songs, the lyrics are brought to the fore here, and the raw vulnerability of Woods' voice is given more space to shine. But as Woods adds extra flourishes strategically, the contrast is rendered all the more stark and affecting.
For instance, marching band percussion — akin to rain on a tin roof — brings climactic poignancy to the otherwise spare "Good Lover." Then there's the fingerpicked mandolin adding distinctive flair to "Another Way." A few wistful acoustic chords, struck deliberately again and again at key moments, hurtle "Truck Full of Money" forward at the finale, after minutes of smoother cruising. That's especially impressive when you consider the far more mammoth orchestral strings Woods relied on for his first pass at "Truck Full of Money" last year.
The most striking departure on this acoustic album is "Easy Street." That won't come as a surprise to anyone familiar with the original's Born In the U.S.A.-esque synth riff opening, and the choir that backs Woods up on the chorus. This time, staccato guitar strums on the chorus and a gentler, but no less resolute, vocal tone render the evocative lyrics about rusting small-town factories and houses sinking into the ground all the more effective.
In short: this isn't your by-the-numbers MTV Unplugged album. There are plenty of new twists here for fans of the original. More importantly, the fact that these songs work so well in such different settings is a testament to the troubadour who penned them. (Meant Well)