WITCHWOOD – Handful of Stars [Reissue]

WITCHWOOD - Handful of Stars
  • 9.8/10
    WITCHWOOD - Handful of Stars - 9.8/10


Label: Jolly Roger Records
Original release date: October 31, 2016
Reissue date: July 5, 2019

User Review
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In the time-honoured tradition of rock music eating its own tail, along comes Witchwood with a collection of tunes that could have been mined from the same ore as early Jethro Tull. The reason this fails to matter is that the music is warm, atmospheric and funky, with just enough personality to make enjoying it easy.

Short-form opener “Presentation Under A Willow” demonstrates some lyrical interplay between guitar and flute, before giving way to the first epic, “Like A Giant in A Cage”. This track perfectly distills the Witchwood sound, its groovy blues-based licks and busy flutes transporting you to a moonlit glade on midsummer’s eve. Once the joyously thick Hammond organ makes an appearance, the song gathers fresh momentum before building to a memorable climax.

“A Grave Is The River” boasts a similar feel, but cunningly combines it with heavy riffs and a lovely guitar solo.

As befits a band rooted in traditional songwriting as much as blues-rock, the change of pace on “Mother” is as welcome as it is dramatic. After a gentle acoustic beginning that thumbs through the folk guitarists’ fakebook, the music slowly launches into its own windswept bubble. It’s a song that reveals itself in layers and has it own “wandering minstrel” vibe. There’s also a welcome echo of Wishbone Ash that fuses neatly with the faintly mystical chanting that rounds out the piece.

If the band can expect any criticism, the vague sense of familiarity (those in the know, for example, will appreciate the Strawbs-referencing band name), that hangs over the entire collection might persuade more jaundiced listeners to get their kicks elsewhere. Given the strength of the material on offer, that would be a pity. For although “Flaming Telepaths” sounds like an aggregation of previously released songs, there’s a tasteful edge to the other material that’s never buried beneath the dead weight of retro-pretensions or fussy production.

The ultimate impression may be of a band content to follow their predecessors, but the craft that’s gone into writing these songs should persuade rock fans of most stripes to jump on board.


  • Dan Whittle

    Daniel was a reviewer here at Metal Express Radio. He's been a music fan since his mother introduced him to the piano at the age of 5. That she introduced him is no real guide to whether he could play it, "as anyone who had the misfortune to hear my hamfisted plonking would readily testify," says Dan. Abandoning his nascent career as a pianist, he turned, instead, to listening to as many albums as he could lay his hands on. The first, halting steps, were of the novelty record variety; but gradually he found his niche. After a brief, abortive flirtation with indie, he heard Clutching at Straws by Marillion and that was it. These days his tastes are on the catholic side, but whiling away a few hours listening to ambitious guitar music (especially of the progressive variety) is still amongst his favorite activities.   Oh, and if anyone's wondering, he did learn the piano and the guitar in the end...

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