This past November, Ontario-born Donovan Woods released his complex and timely album Without People. In a year of isolation and distance the songs meld the nostalgia of togetherness with an all too relatable loneliness. It’s a collection of lyrics about being among people. Now, we hear two new tracks and two new mixes on his latest album Without People (Deluxe).
The first remix is “Grew Apart – Piano.” An earlier version of the track ran on country playlists in summer 2020 when Logan Mize cut an upbeat version with Woods. We know Woods can pen a feel good country track as well as a gut-wrenching one. Cut to the next new song “Break Somebody’s Heart.” The small town-leaving motif is a string connected throughout country music’s repertoire. Pan to “When the Party’s Over.” Without People gave us a taste with Woods singing the quiet melody in “Interlude.” Against his better judgement (as Woods claims on his Instagram), we get the full cut version. It's safe to say his opinion isn't sound because it’s a contemporary country bop, complete with a fast-paced chorus featuring a classic little black dress, and an electric guitar signaling in the quieter acoustic-led bridge.
The most forceful track is “Whatever Keeps You Going – Children’s Choir.” Students from The J.P. Robarts P.S. Music Project in London, Ontario harmonize softly alongside Woods as he narrates different but related life stories; an approach peppered throughout his musical anthology. The collaboration stems from Woods’ “With People Project” where artists around the world created unique pieces inspired by tracks on Without People.
Without People (Deluxe) and these four tracks specifically are a resonating continuation of Woods’ stories of the joys and hardships of being with people in a time when we are all very much without them.