As an entity, the city of Cincinnati plays host to a wide variety of solo musicians, who within their solitary existence regularly find solidarity and companionship - what they don’t have by way of bandmates, they more than make up for in friendships with other solo artists. What they’re missing in the form of extra or excess instrumentation, they balance out with sincerity and soul. That’s not to say your average full-band experience is any less intimate, but there’s something vulnerable and magnetic about the lone musician, with their lone instrument.
I’ve always been impressed, and often caught off guard, by the ability of a solitary musician to not just create, but to share. The courage to both mine the depths of their own experience and then express those feelings, memories, and more often than not, losses, has been a source of constant fascination, as well as appreciation. Matt Baumann, better known as WolfCryer, is no exception.
It’s been a tumultuous couple of years for WolfCryer, filled with the kind of storied, intense happenings that tend to hurt like hell in the moment, those plummeting valleys, but can result in heightened awareness, the artistic peaks. Even while plumbing the depths of so much raw emotion, of living in those moments of pain and frustration, the reconciliation - both within and outside oneself - that follows is a buoy, as sublime as it is entirely too apparent.
The impending release of his 8 track EP, The Prospect Of Wind, finds WolfCryer at a crossroads. An album of his own creation, design, and production, The Prospect of Wind is filled with the melancholic, dust-blown imagery and metaphorical acrobatics of his previous material. However, where there was a strongly-played banjo - more jazz than blues, more strum than pluck - that was just as much a part of what made WolfCryer, WolfCryer, there’s now a guitar, soulfully cascading over, around, and through each track. It’s an album that can proudly sit next to musicians like Chuck Ragan, of Hot Water Music, whose solo material delightfully hearkens back to a much simpler form of musical communication, and is all the better for doing so.
Vocally, The Prospect of Wind plays much like the rest of WolfCryer’s back catalog, but it does take on a slightly different tenor when paired with the accompanying guitar. It’s no less soulful or ruminative, simply… different. And in this case, different isn’t a bad thing, as his voice works just as well with guitar as it does banjo. What makes the choice interesting is that, as of the end of his set this coming Friday, WolfCryer will be taking a voluntary leave of absence from playing shows. For how long, I’m not sure. I’d be willing to bet he’s not sure, either. The choice to willfully change a significant element of your sound is a bold one, especially when in a particularly minimal state of being to begin with, and I think it works particularly well here.
Creating music is an intense, personal experience, a labor of love that can come from the loneliest, darkest places. As WolfCryer has spent a lot of his time digging into those catacombs, scraping off scabs to wounds barely healed, it’s understandable to want to step away from that, to need to step away. That he’s choosing to do so on his own terms, as the prospect of real, sweeping change looms - and in fact has already come to pass - isn’t necessarily a reason to mourn, so much as it is a reason to celebrate and be thankful for what he’s shared. At the risk of sounding trite, you never know which way the wind will blow. Maybe, sometimes, it’s best to just see what happens.
WolfCryer will be celebrating the release of The Prospect of Wind this Friday September 26th at the Southgate House Revival, in the Revival Room, alongside touring acts Andra Taylor and Nate Dodge, and JCK.