Nashville is a songwriter’s town. We know this well. And, sometimes, the people behind some of the most treasured, or most successful, tunes can go years — or even forever — without their own voice or face being known to the world. Often, this is by choice; but other times, it’s because their subtleties can get swallowed by the celebrity around them, hiding the jewels within their own signature style. Lately, though, there’s been a string of breakouts in the artist/songwriter world — from Natalie Hemby and excellent solo debut to, most recently, Donovan Woods, one of the creative forces behind Tim McGraw, Charlie Worsham, and Charles Kelley cuts. Woods — who actually lives in Canada — has been releasing solo LPs for years, but his newest, Both Ways, is a stunning, textural triumph of lush folk songs with gorgeous, evocative lyricism laced throughout.
“Good Lover,” the album’s opener, begins with solemn words to a soft voice and delicate acoustic plucks: It’s about regrets and mistakes and the wishes we have for ourselves to be better or different than we are, while simultaneously accepting our fate. Through vivid imagery, Woods describes that packing up and moving out that comes with the dissolution of a relationship, with full boxes but empty, aching hearts. “But it’s over now,” Woods sings, looking back on the past, “I had a good run but I lucked it out. The neighbors clocked it, then we’ve been cleaning out that tiny house where we could settle for each other.” Woods delivers “Good Lover” like he’s singing into a confessional, with the window open for us all to hear — and remind us that, thankfully, his point of view isn’t just confined to the album credits of others.