Review: Adam Woodrow – By Your Design

Artist: Adam Woodrow
Album: By Your Design
Rating: 5/5

Throughout the walk of life, we’re given many different trials to overcome. While, at the time, we may think that these are life’s cruel way of toying with us… the truth is, there’s a bigger purpose wrapped in it all. Encompassing our lives is a grand design, written/planned by a master architect and executed through each millisecond of our lives, whether we realize it or not. For Orange, TX singer/songwriter Adam Woodrow, this realization couldn’t have come at a more perfect time. Spiraling deep into depression, alcohol dependency and just general bouts of his life spinning out of control, he turned to a higher power… and shortly after, life turned around. He wanted to tell this story in the best way he knew how and that’s through the latest set of songs he’s penned which he’s dubbed By Your Design. For this release, he decided to head back to his more traditional, hard rock sound (previously explored in his band Forever Falls) and it’s clear, from the getgo, that these songs have a deep and powerful meaning to him. By Your Design was recorded with Austin-based producer A.J. Vallejo and let start with the following statement: I’ve followed Adam for YEARS and nothing he has created, solo or with a band sounds as good or as “him” as this collection of songs. To hear him return to this style of music is incredible… but even I wasn’t prepared for what was to come. Surprise released on January 6th, after months of anticipation and meticulous tweaking, this EP rivals anything he’s ever done and, if we never get another release from him, it’s wonderful to see that he’s going out at the top of his game.

“Walk Away” begins the journey with Woodrow stating that he’s fed up with the things that are going on his life. He proclaims that he will no longer sit back and allow himself to be beaten down and, at the time, he seems to blame God for putting him through the hardships he’s faced. The only effect added to his voice at any point in this track is a small echo, to emphasize certain points of the lyrics and have them hit home more to the listener. If you have followed Adam in the past, you’ll know that he has a very distinct sound to his voice. It’s raw, gritty and has a bit of a southern twang to it. Unless you’ve seen him live, though… you likely DON’T know that what you hear in studio is exactly what you’ll hear live. No frills, no extras… he refuses to ruin his vocals with any unnecessary elements that and that’s one of the things that’s most admirable about him. After all, why would you want to see an artist who sounds completely different in a live setting, than in studio. His range, his grit and his vocal ability in general has grown exponentially over the years and it’s clear from the start. Slightly on a more melodic level but no less intense follows with “Fire.”

The guitars are the driving point in this track, heavy and almost foreboding in nature. They convey a sense of desperation. Lyrically, Woodrow has hit rock bottom and feels like there’s no hope left. He’s searching for some way to climb out from the hole that he’s dug himself, knowing that he’s the cause and reaches out to anyone who will listen. He begs for someone to pray for him because he feels that he’s at the end of his rope.

Have you ever, at any point in life, felt your words fall upon deaf ears? So did Woodrow and that’s where “Words” comes in. Acoustic-electric guitar underlies one of the most emotionally powerful tracks on the album, the point where he sits down and has a conversation with himself and (eventually) God, begging for forgiveness and to be given another chance. There is an added level of extreme emotional heaviness to this track, suggesting that he was going through something really rough in his life. The track builds itself up into the bridge, a beautiful guitar solo that fluidly moves into the final chorus.

“Graffiti” is one of my favorite tracks and, let me get it out of the way… the chorus has an almost uncanny vocal resemblance to Adam Gontier (ex-Three Days Grace, Saint Asonia) and the instruments underlying it also have a similar sound. Whether or not Woodrow intended this is unclear but I think it’s an awesome testament to his power as a vocalist. This is a track that speaks to the listener about the state of the world and how only unity and faith will be able to save us. “Graffiti” in the sense of how he uses it here is making your mark on the world, leaving an impression that shows future generations that you actually cared. Whether it be through art, music, protest, standing up for a cause… sitting around isn’t going to get anything done. If you listen at the end, you can hear his oldest daughter Presley singing as the track fades out, which is something that I think is amazing.

“Chasing the Son” closes out the EP in a beautiful fashion. It opens with Woodrow telling his youngest daughter Charlie “I love you to the moon,” to which she responds “I love you to the sun!” Chilling and beautiful piano melodies are what drive this track and create a really intimate and stripped down experience. This is a track talking all 3 of his children, telling them not to make the mistakes he made. He wants them to learn from everything that he’s faced in life, to face their own failures but to have them know that he wants them to have a better, more fulfilling life than he has led thus far and to have a better relationship with their Creator. He wants them to live a life worth living and that they can look back and say they’re proud of. One last build-up leads into a full-band section, where Woodrow displays one last burst of power in his vocals, while some gorgeous strings play softly and build under the final chorus.

It’s unclear whether or not this will be the last musical release we see from Adam but even if it is, this is him at his best. He kept this as hushed as he could, only revealing that he was recording an EP with AJ Vallejo and that it was coming “soon,” so as to build fans’ anticipation but not give a real feel of where it was headed. Even the teaser trailer he used to announce the title (which included only the faded-in section of “Walk Away”) gave no direction as to where the album was headed. To say that this EP is an emotional roller-coaster would be discrediting it… there are no words to describe the level of emotional intensity put into every aspect of this release. He has created something to truly be proud of and, if this is the end of what we’ll hear on a studio front from him, he’s going out at the top of his game. Pick up YOUR copy of By Your Design by visiting the links below, check his last EP Country Made out and go tell him what you think. If you like it enough and want physical copies, be sure to let him know because he said he’d look into it if there’s enough demand!

Buy By Your Design
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