David Wilcox (American musician)

David Wilcox (American musician)
David Wilcox
Genres Singer-songwriter
Years active 1988–present
Labels A&M Records, What Are Records?, Vanguard Records, Koch International, Fresh Baked Records
Website Official website
Notable instruments
Olson Guitars

David Patrick Wilcox (born 1958) is an American folk musician and singer-songwriter guitarist. He has been active in the music business since the late 1980s.



Wilcox was born in Mentor, Ohio, attended Antioch College[1][2] in Yellow Springs, Ohio in 1976 where he began learning guitar. He later transferred to Warren Wilson College[2][3] in North Carolina in 1981 and graduated in 1985. Wilcox appeared regularly at an Black Mountain, North Carolina night club called McDibbs.[2] His debut album The Nightshift Watchman was released in 1987 on his own label, Song of the Woods, and reissued in 1996.[2] He began touring regularly.[2] After performing at the Bluebird Cafe in Nashville, he signed with A&M Records in 1989.[2] He made several albums with this label.[2] His albums were described by one Rolling Stone critic as "unjustly neglected".[4] After his contract with A&M expired in 1994, Wilcox continued to write songs, tour and release albums.[2] In 1994, he performed at Carnegie Hall with thirty other singer-songwriters in a showcase event.[5] Wilcox also appeared on the cover of Acoustic Guitar which described him as James Taylor combined with the "husky breathiness more reminiscent of the late Nick Drake" and said he was the "best known of the brilliant crop of singer-songwriters to emerge in the late '80s." He's been based in Asheville, North Carolina in the 1990s, in Washington, D.C. and Maryland in 1999-2000,[6][7] and again in Asheville in 2009.

In the next decade, Wilcox continued to release albums, including Into the Mystery in 2003.[8] He's been a guest artist at guitar workshops.[9] His lyrics are sometimes of the "probing meaning-of-life" type.[10] as well as "thought-provoking".[11] Wilcox plays acoustic guitars made by Olson Guitars. His fingerstyle style which is similar to Nick Drake and Joni Mitchell uses open tuning extensively,[6][10] often in combination with customized capos with notches cut out to allow lower strings to ring open. He's been featured in Performing Songwriter magazine on five occasions.[12]

He commented on his approach to music:

"If people listen to only one kind of music, it seems they're focusing on one kind of emotion ... Music is about all the different kinds of feelings we can have -- we can be scared, we can be angry, we can be hopeful, we can be sad. We can be all these things and have company in it. Music is sacred ground and it shouldn't be reduced to that kind of simplified demographic target-marketing."[10]
"The song has to offer something universal. I want songs that people can understand the first time ... I write songs with layers in them, so they stay interesting over the years."[6]

His 2005 album Out Beyond Ideas was a joint project with his wife Nance Pettit[2] described as a significant diversion from prior work featuring sacred poetry set to music from different religious traditions[2][13] including Saint Francis of Assisi, Jalaludin Rumi, Shams-ud-din Muhammad Hafiz, Rabia al Basri, Yehuda HaLevi, Solomon Ibn Gabirol, Uvavnuk, and Kabir.[citation needed] During 2005 Wilcox traveled the country with his wife and teen-aged son in an Airstream trailer attached to a bio-diesel truck.[1] He named one of his albums Airstream.[1] His album Vista was released in April 2006.[11]

In 2008 Wilcox was honored with a silver award along with Bob Dylan, in Acoustic Guitar's singer/songwriter category.[14] His latest album "Open Hand" was released in March 2009. He's sometimes confused with Canadian rock and blues guitarist David Wilcox.[15] Although his albums have had diverse arrangements, Wilcox generally performs as a soloist.[2] He has released 16 albums.[16] Wilcox performed a benefit concert in Westfield, New Jersey for Coffee With Conscience in late spring, 2008.

Critical reception

A New York Times music critic wrote Wilcox has a "handful of sterling folk-pop songs, a genial voice and enough guitar virtuosity to make even his lesser material sound convincing."[17] Another described him as a prolific songwriter and folk artist.[18] Another wrote he "sings with a mellow fluency that suggests a hybrid of Mr. Taylor and Kenny Rankin, but he has better enunciation than either."[19] Critics describe his voice as having a "warm, expressive" quality[4] with an "engaging vocal style"[7] and a "warm, baritone vocal tone."[2]

His music has been written as "deeply philosophical" and "insightful".[1][20] One music critic wrote he was a "influential acoustic guitarist ... the PBS darling of contemporary singer-songwriter folk."[20] Another critic wrote that an "eager, unapologetic sincerity flows from the heart of David Wilcox's acoustic music," and elaborated that "Wilcox uses extended metaphors and beautifully detailed imagery in lyrics that are far more compassionate and philosophic than self-absorbed ... Indeed, as steeped in romance as most popular music is, it rarely speaks directly to issues of loneliness, intimacy and commitment – let alone mortality and inner fortitude. Wilcox does this with sensitivity, analytic zeal and subtle emotional force."[4] Another wrote: "Many of his songs analyze the dynamics of relationships in epigrammatic verses that are at once earnest and gently humorous. While many of Mr. Wilcox's songs have light blues inflections, occasionally they also look back in spirit to Tin Pan Alley. My Old Addiction*, one of the most striking songs in his first set on Thursday, was a wry, wistful meditation on the tug of an old relationship that echoed Georgia on My Mind.[19] Many critics compare his style to James Taylor[5][6][19][20][21][22] as well as Joni Mitchell and John Gorka.[22] A Rolling Stone critic suggested Wilcox's best album was How Did You Find Me Here released in 1989.[4][7]

One critic sensed Wilcox had a "boyish sensitivity" with "something to say about love, relationships and life" which is sung with "insight, humor and moments of profundity."[21] But the critic felt Wilcox needs to "get some excitement into his music and voice ... His even-keel, generic style of singing, playing and music-writing isn't enough to keep the focus of the modern short attention span" and his songs lack "musical distinctiveness."[21] Wilcox is a "poet/storyteller first, a songwriter/player second".[21]

  • * The correct title of the song is "Chet Baker's Unsung Swan Song"


Music by David Wilcox
Album Year Label Billboard 200 (sales chart) Folk Radio (airplay chart) Notes References
Reverie 2010 What Are Records? #30 [23]
Open Hand 2009 What Are Records? #3 [24]
Airstream 2008 What Are Records? #20 [1][25]
Vista 2006 What Are Records? #14 [1][2][11][26]
Out Beyond Ideas 2005 What Are Records? #28 with wife Nancy Pettit [2][27]
Into the Mystery 2003 What Are Records? #18 [2][8][28]
Live Songs and Stories 2002 What Are Records? [2]
The Very Best of David Wilcox 2001 A&M
What You Whispered 2000 Vanguard #53 [2][7][29]
Underneath 1999 Vanguard #13 [2][6][30]
Turning Point 1997 Koch, reissued on What Are Records? n/a recorded in log cabin behind his home [2]
East Asheville Hardware 1996 Fresh Baked/Koch, reissued on What Are Records? n/a
Big Horizon 1994 A&M #165 n/a [2]
Home Again 1991 A&M n/a [2]
Mostly Live: An Authorized Bootleg 1991 A&M n/a
How Did You Find Me Here 1989 A&M n/a (sold over 100,000 copies by word of mouth)[2] [2][4][7]
Nightshift Watchman 1987 Song of the Wood (1996 reissue by Fresh Baked/Koch) n/a [2]


  1. ^ a b c d e f "Focus On: David Wilcox". Folk Alley. 2009-09-12. http://www.folkalley.com/music/extras/david_wilcox/. Retrieved 2009-09-12. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x Craig Harris (2009-09-12). "David Wilcox Biography". Yahoo! Music. http://new.music.yahoo.com/david-wilcox/biography/. Retrieved 2009-09-12. 
  3. ^ "America's Best Colleges #241 Warren Wilson College". Forbes. 2009-09-12. http://www.forbes.com/lists/2009/94/colleges-09_Warren-Wilson-College_94534.html. Retrieved 2009-09-12. 
  4. ^ a b c d e JOHN MCALLEY (September 8, 1994). "Album Reviews -- David Wilcox "Big Horizon"". Rolling Stone. http://www.rollingstone.com/artists/davidwilcox/albums/album/115554/review/5942823/big_horizon. Retrieved 2009-09-12. 
  5. ^ a b JON PARELES (October 18, 1994). "IN PERFORMANCE; POP -- Singer-Songwriter Festival Offers a Broad Sampling Carnegie Hall". The New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/1994/10/18/arts/in-performance-pop-559504.html. Retrieved 2009-09-12. 
  6. ^ a b c d e Melanie M. Bianchi (1999-03-24). "Fashioning compassion -- New Grass Revival co-founder Curtis Burch teams up with the Larry Keel Experience". Mountain Xpress. http://www.mountainx.com/ae/1999/0324wilcox.php. Retrieved 2009-09-14. 
  7. ^ a b c d e JOHN D. LUERSSEN (August 28, 2000). "David Wilcox What You Whispered (Vanguard) -- Jets to Brazil, Amil Lead New Releases". Rolling Stone. http://www.rollingstone.com/artists/jetstobrazil/articles/story/5921739/jets_to_brazil_amil_lead_new_releases. Retrieved 2009-09-12. 
  8. ^ a b "In Brief: Incubus, Jam -- Sony fires back, the Jam get complete". Rolling Stone. February 14, 2003. http://www.rollingstone.com/news/story/5936590/in_brief_incubus_jam. Retrieved 2009-09-12. 
  9. ^ "National Guitar Workshop -- Music Education Program". Guitar World. 2009-02-17. http://news.guitarworld.com/story/national_guitar_workshop_music_education_program/. Retrieved 2009-09-12. 
  10. ^ a b c Derk Richardson (December 24, 1998). "Derk's Top 20 Albums of 1998". The New York Times. http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/g/a/1998/12/24/derk.DTL&type=printable. Retrieved 2009-09-12. 
  11. ^ a b c "Looking Forward to It!". San Francisco Chronicle. April 9, 2006. http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2006/04/09/PKGP9I2SE61.DTL&hw=WARPED+TOUR&sn=076&sc=206. Retrieved 2009-09-12. 
  12. ^ "Back Issues: Performing Songwriter magazine". Performing Songwriter magazine. 1993, 1997, 1999, 2001, 2002. http://www.performingsongwriter.com/pages/shop/search_results.cfm?terms=wilcox. Retrieved 2009-09-12. [dead link]
  13. ^ Out Beyond Ideas - davidwilcox.com
  14. ^ "2008 Players' Choice Award Winners". Acoustic Guitar Magazine. 2009-09-14. http://www.acousticguitar.com/pca/SearchWinners.aspx. Retrieved 2009-09-14. 
  15. ^ "David Wilcox On Tour". last.fm. 2009-09-12. http://www.last.fm/music/David+Wilcox. Retrieved 2009-09-12. 
  16. ^ "Exclusive Downloads -- David Wilcox". Paste Magazine. 2009-09-14. http://app.pastemagazine.com/albums/david-wilcox-live-from-paste. Retrieved 2009-09-14. 
  17. ^ "The Listings". The New York Times. March 4, 2005. http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9C0CE2DC103DF937A35750C0A9639C8B63. Retrieved 2009-09-12. 
  18. ^ RALPH DiGENNARO (January 30, 2000). "A Calling to Tell Stories, With Melodies". The New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2000/01/30/nyregion/a-calling-to-tell-stories-with-melodies.html. Retrieved 2009-09-12. 
  19. ^ a b c STEPHEN HOLDEN (March 1, 1992). "Review/Folk; Marginal Repertory, But Not Dead". The New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/1992/03/01/arts/review-folk-marginal-repertory-but-not-dead.html. Retrieved 2009-09-12. 
  20. ^ a b c "Essentials -- David Wilcox". San Francisco Chronicle. April 17, 2008. http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2008/04/17/NSLN103BNO.DTL&hw=nightclub&sn=126&sc=441. Retrieved 2009-09-12. 
  21. ^ a b c d Maria Armoudian (1994-05-04). "David Wilcox". Rolling Stone. http://www.variety.com/review/VE1117902681.html?categoryid=33&cs=1. Retrieved 2009-09-12. 
  22. ^ a b L. Zimmerman (July/August 2008). "David Wilcox -- Airstream". Performing Songwriter magazine. http://www.performingsongwriter.com/pages/music/111.cfm. Retrieved 2009-09-12. [dead link]
  23. ^ Richard Gillmann, Top Folk Albums, Songs, Artists and Labels of January 2011, compiled from playlists submitted to Folk DJ-L (accessed 3/19/2011)
  24. ^ Richard Gillmann, Top Folk Albums, Songs, Artists and Labels of May 2009, compiled from playlists submitted to Folk DJ-L (accessed 3/19/2011)
  25. ^ Richard Gillmann, Top Folk Albums, Songs, Artists and Labels of March 2008, compiled from playlists submitted to Folk DJ-L (accessed 3/19/2011)
  26. ^ Richard Gillmann, Top Folk Albums, Songs, Artists and Labels of June 2006, compiled from playlists submitted to Folk DJ-L (accessed 3/19/2011)
  27. ^ Richard Gillmann, Top Folk Albums, Songs, Artists and Labels of September 2005, compiled from playlists submitted to Folk DJ-L (accessed 3/19/2011)
  28. ^ Richard Gillmann, Top Folk Albums, Songs, Artists and Labels of May 2003, compiled from playlists submitted to Folk DJ-L (accessed 3/19/2011)
  29. ^ Richard Gillmann, Top Folk Albums, Songs, Artists and Labels of October 2000, compiled from playlists submitted to Folk DJ-L (accessed 3/19/2011)
  30. ^ Richard Gillmann, Top Folk Albums, Songs, Artists and Labels of April 1999, compiled from playlists submitted to Folk DJ-L (accessed 3/19/2011)

External links

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