by Max Jones
If you’ve been looking for the latest folk-sensation to come out of Sarnia, Ontario, I hope you haven’t been holding your breath, but if just in case you were, you can stop.
Donovan Woods’ Don’t Get Too Grand is a songwriter’s tour de force, as it moves effortlessly from traditional toe-tappers like “Put On, Cologne”, to heart-wrenching laments such as “Sask”, and back again. In the latter, Woods suggests that he was “planning to go somewhere warm with the money,” which is a refrain that will resonate with any lukewarm-blooded Canadian at this time of year, and the way he sings it makes the listener want to go right along with him.
The instrumentation won’t blow you away, but what it lacks in complexity, it more than makes up for in effectiveness. The song “Widowmaker” features Nick Drake-esque finger picking, and the simple keyboards on “Petrolia” give his vocals the perfect backdrop against which to tell his former lover that she’ll have to “sell this house / and get lost in the city.”
The Sarnian side of Donovan shows in the last song when he asks “Sault Ste Marie” to be “sweet to me,” a Western Ontario reference that might be lost on broader (read: American) crowds. As they say, though, you can’t know where you’re going unless you know where you’ve been. The second part isn’t a problem for Mr. Woods, which means we should all be excited about the first.