The music of Henry Wagons – released under the moniker Wagons – has been described as psychedelic country, and certainly that is the easy label. There are recognisable elements of country music and there are spacey psychedelic elements suggestive of David Bowie, amongst others. So that term describes the style of music you can expect to find on Wagons’s new EP, Need a Ride? But it does not describe the experience of listening to it, which is, bluntly, this: with that voice, Wagons could ask you to rob a bank and you’d probably consider it, and possibly even do it.
Wagons has a baritone that is not so much hypnotic as compelling. You don’t lose reason – as the bank-robbing notion might suggest – so much as want to be taken wherever he’s going. Wagons is a rock star who is not playing rock music in the traditional sense (although there are certainly rock influences on the EP) but his appeal is not about rock-star swagger so much as swashbuckling.
His musical accompaniment on this EP is sophisticated, layered and worthy of consideration separate to whatever he does with the vocals. But his vocals are at the centre of the vortex created by the instruments – and you are drawn inexorably to that centre.
Wagons is confident with his instrument, enough to take his time on the last track, ‘Brand New Place’ – to give the lyrics the weight they need – and also to belt it out on fourth track ‘Flotation Man’. Confidence in any performer is a gift for the listener, because it means we can relax. Wagons is doing the work for us, inviting us to step on board a five-track ride – the title of the EP even makes this explicit – while he takes the wheel. It’s one hell of a trip. Strap yourself in and enjoy it.