Clearly, some novelty records are just silly and others are, at least on some level, actually quite serious. Words of Wisdom is certainly of the more serious variety. That’s not to say that it isn’t light-hearted, just that it has a real purpose.
Brian Dewan apparently found these songs in old schoolbooks, garage sales, attics and basements and some date back 200 years. While the songs themselves seem rather traditional, the performances with their odd instrumentation (autoharp, electric zither, organ and accordian) and Dewan’s quirky delivery, are anything but. Dewan sings these peculiar little lost pieces as if he’s singing to children and perhaps it is with a child’s innocence that they are best approached. Still, the topics are at times dark like a Grimm fairy tale. In a sense, Dewan plays this like Berl Ives with a dark side.
Words of Wisdom is not for everyone. It’s certainly not slick or pop-oriented and makes no effort to fit into any mold. Even for those who will find his folk oddities interesting, it won’t be in constant rotation. Nonetheless, it’s an healthy diversion into some unknown folk music that Dewan is able to justify with his silly, yet somewhat compelling recordings.