Withered Hand: A Ruler Across The Knuckles

May 18, 2011

As the man behind Withered Hand, Dan Wilson makes the sort of observations that used to stop Bible study classes in their tracks. "Religious Songs" is the ruler across the knuckles that inevitably followed.

Wilson grew up in an evangelical Christian household in Scotland, and apparently the fear of God wasn't instilled deeply enough in the kid. But Wilson comes off as more innocent than wicked in "Religious Songs," dispensing eye-opening lines — "I don't really know what the wine was for / 'Cause if it was Jesus' blood, wouldn't there be more?" — with a mischievous wink.

In the song and on the album, Wilson is "singing religious songs and getting the words wrong." But all but the most rigidly pious will likely forgive him his sins. Withered Hand's folksy, whimsical style bears some resemblance to The Danielson Famile, and in "Religious Songs," the band even breaks out a "la la la la" sing-along chorus worthy of Up With People. The final verse gets a bit crass, but "Religious Songs" as a whole stands up as an heir to XTC's "Dear God" — a song that questions faith in a way only a true believer could. Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.