Just over one year ago, Donovan Woods released his full-length LP Hard Settle, Ain’t Troubled. Now, the Canada native (and Nashville adoptee) has returned with a follow-up EP, They Are Going Away. The offering features Woods’ now-signature tight, emotive lyrics, coated with an extra glaze of traditional country sounds and instruments. (If Hard Settle was Woods’ initial hint at a more Nashvillian sound, They Are Going Away artfully cements his place in Music City.)
Woods cowrote the lead track “What They Mean” with Abe Stoklasa and Charles Kelley (Kelley cut the Woods/Stoklasa cowrite “Leaving Nashville” on his debut solo LP). The lyrics are a sweet explanation of the romantic “you drive me crazy” cliche that so often appears in songs – the narrative verses embed the concept and capitalize on its ubiquity, somehow presenting an irresistibly fresh take on the idea.
Key Lyrics: “I said you won’t know what it means till you’re 16 / And you’re driving around, feeling free / With your favorite girl on the bench seat, trying to speak louder than your heartbeat.”
“It’ll Work Itself Out” offers a melancholy, defeatist take on “c’est la vie,” suggesting everything will indeed work itself out, for better or for worse. The delicate verses are followed by a grittier bridge, featuring electric guitar that contrasts Woods’ signature finger-picking. It offers perhaps the most devastating lyrics: And we’ll both catch colds come spring / And there ain’t no such thing as everything / You got reservations, and I got doubts / And it’ll probably work itself out.
Woods lathers on another layer of emotion with “Drove Through Town,” a painfully upbeat song in which the anger and conflict depicted in the lyrics are masked with brighter pop-rock production (perhaps the most prominent pop sound on the EP). The chorus paints a lonely picture of desolate street scenes, and yet still induces a drivers-seat singalong: “It’s easier to cry about now I drove through town, ohhh-oh / I didn’t get one red light I drove through town ohhh-oh / And I felt in a tizzy all night.” The final track, “Empty Rooms,” finds Woods singing about loss and loneliness, using the blank walls of a new living space as a metaphoric backdrop: “Barren walls look promising, but they’re lonely as can be / They’re good for casting shadows but my shadow’s casting me.”
While They Are Going Away is essentially a continuation of Woods’ last project, the songs sound as new and relevant as if it were an entirely new venture. Woods again proves his ability to create expertly-crafted songs that coat sucker-punch lyrics with softer sonic elements, so as to devastate the listener in a gentler, understated way that’s somehow twice as heartbreaking.