Wyndham Baird “After The Morning”

Jalopy Records, 2024

Wyndham Baird’s debut showcases a selection of folk and country standards.

Cover art for Wyndham Baird 'After The Morning'Wyndham Baird grew up in rural North Carolina and moved to Asheville for college at the same time as the financial crisis, whereupon he opted out of college and into being a travelling musician.  His journey took him all over the US, ending up as a key player in the folk scene in Brooklyn, NY, centred around the Brooklyn Folk Festival and the Jalopy Theatre and School of Music.

Baird is pretty highly rated by local folk fans and has now released his first full length album on Jalopy Records.  ‘After The Morning’ is a collection of reasonably well-known folk and country tunes and as a group of songs makes up what would be a pretty representative set at a folk club.  Two of Baird’s cited major influences are Doc Watson and Bob Dylan and that’s reflected in the song selection. The album was produced by Eli Smith at the Jalopy Theatre and Smith’s home studio.  Baird plays acoustic guitar and harmonica as well as providing the lead vocals.  Smith adds banjo and autoharp on two tracks while one has added vocals from Samoa Wilson.

The first track, Merle Haggard’s ‘If We Make It Through December’ was reviewed on AUK earlier this month.  Baird goes old-time with the Carter Family’s ‘The Girl On The Greenbriar Shore’ followed by Jimmie Rodgers ‘Waiting For A Train’ before reaching across the Atlantic with a version of ‘On Raglan Road’ that doesn’t show a lot of feeling for Patrick Kavanagh’s poetry.  Back on safer territory the performances of standards ‘The House Carpenter’ and ‘The Water Is Wide’, are enjoyable.

The second Transatlantic song, ‘The Streets Of Derry’ which opens side 2 of the LP fares a bit but not a lot better than the earlier effort.  Baird revisits the old time for train wreck classic ‘Engine 143’ (one of its several titles).

‘Meet By The Moonlight, Alone’ follows The Carter Family arrangement but the addition of Wilson’s vocal and Smith’s autoharp add a lot to the performance and this is probably the highlight of the record. ‘Dark As A Dungeon’ is another much-covered song with Merle Travis’ evocative lyric.  Baird’s guitar and harmonica work on the track is well done. Eric von Schmidt’s Caribbean labour song ‘Joshua Gone Barbados’ was originally found by Baird on a Dylan bootleg and has a slightly rougher edge than versions by Tom Rush and Johnny Cash.

The penultimate song on ‘After The Morning’ is the traditional ‘Oh My Little Darling’ which benefits from the additional colour from Smith’s banjo. The closer ‘She Chose Me’ is a bit of a surprise.  A Randy Newman song, originally written for a police procedural musical in 1990 but finally released by Newman in 2017,  has a lounge feel common to a lot of his work.  Rearranged from piano to guitar it brings the record to a nice close.

Baird’s debut record comes across as what might have been a live album cut in the studio with the closer as a post-set encore. Like a lot of folk artists, experiencing Baird’s work in a live setting – which is where he’s been getting the plaudits – may well be its natural environment.  ‘After The Morning’ is a promising setlist.

7/10
7/10

About Richard Parkinson 117 Articles
London based self-diagnosed music junkie with tastes extending to all points of big tent americana and beyond. Fan of acts and songs rather than genres.
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