North Carolina songwriter David Wilcox sees revolution in honesty and adventure in troubled times

David Wilcox
8 p.m. Friday
UCO Jazz Lab
100 E. Fifth, Edmond

David Wilcox’s oeuvre might be called coffeehouse music, not so much for the confessional folk connotations ” although that’s there to some extent ” but because it invites the impression of someone with whom you’d engage in a wide-ranging conversation over joe some sunny afternoon.

His 14 studio albums possess an earnest honesty that’s not cloying, but unguarded and forthright, expressing a willingness to wade into big topics without the self-important puffery that suggests he has all the answers.

That attitude has found a home in the folk circuit, where audiences are willing to give as much attention to the words as the beat, although Wilcox quickly dismisses the idea that he writes for any particular set of people.

“I tend to think that this kind of communication transcends the way the industry used to sort us according to demographic,” he said. “This kind of music because it is, in its essence, just harmonized honesty.”

That’s Wilcox’s approach, whether he’s conceiving the “Rusty Old American Dream” as an old, gas-guzzling, steel-frame automobile; imagining a fortune teller salving an artist’s ego on “The Customer Is Always Right”; or conflating “Sex and Music,” noting how “The abstraction of music’s confusing, the directness of sex is more fun / And what you are going to get out of them both, is just what you put in.”

His gentle baritone is warm-cotton-soft, sliding smoothly over low-key folk-pop, often with a vaguely jazzy air. The music’s effortless, easygoing vibe greases the way for his thoughtful lyrics. Wilcox’s understated style tends to circle back round after the lyrics have made their impact.
During his career, he’s made it a point to change up the tunings he uses in an attempt keep the music as fresh and surprising as when he first started playing, nearly 25 years ago.

Last year, he released one of his finest albums to date, “Open Hand,” which was bolstered by strong songs, from his sweet, haunting “Red Eye,” about Photoshopping your expectations, to a striking portrait of an arrogant, self-styled superhero/curmudgeon, “Captain Wanker,” and the dystopia of our “(What Happened to My) Modern World.” The disc was recorded live to tape with a band in just a week, engendering a vibrant, crackling energy.

“If we’re recording on analog, we don’t have the option to fix it with the computer. There’s no pitch correction, there’s no splicing out little mistakes. It ups the honesty and intensifies the performance aspect,” he said.

He changed things up again for his forthcoming album, featuring 16 songs he recorded live in front of studio audience. It’s recorded digitally, allowing him to correct any mistakes, which allowed him to relax and really focus on bringing the songs across to the audience while also capturing the wide-open ambience of the room. It features a handful of tracks with a more satirical bent.

“The new songs that I’m writing trouble me because they are ironic “¦ something that I’m not acclimated to. It’s hard for me to trust the listener,” he said. “I hate to say it, but some of these songs are written in such a way that if people were to halfway listen, they could think I’m saying exactly the opposite of what I’m really saying. Like, there’s a new song called ‘They Call It Torture, We Call It Freedom.'” “Chris Parker

Chris Parker

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