Upon the initial Canadian release of Let’s Be Ready, The Wooden Sky frontman/guitarist Gavin Gardiner told Exclaim! that there is “a sense of contentedness and stability” about the Toronto folk outfit’s new album, and he was 100% right. If there’s one thing Let’s Be Ready excels at, it's stability. No one song is notably weaker than another, yet there are also no highlights: it’s neither boring nor exciting. It has a generally accessible sound but no earworms. In that way, it's quite remarkable really; Let’s Be Ready is the soundtrack to banality, a perfectly mediocre album.
For the follow-up to 2012’s serene (and JUNO-nominated) Every Child a Daughter, Every Moon a Sun, Gardiner expressed a desire to apply more of a live feel to the band's sound. Normally, that would mean rough edges, raw energy, etc. but none of that is to be found here. Sure, Let’s Be Ready uses amplification more often than its predecessor, but it still doesn’t really feel “live.” A few songs trail off with guitar feedback, but that’s about it. Let’s Be Ready is only live in the sense that its tracks are the type of tunes you’d hear immediately after the front-man of your local Neil Young or Tom Petty tribute act says, “Thank you, thank you. Now for a couple of originals…”
The reality is that no amount of planned studio trickery could enliven the antiseptic sheen of The Wooden Sky’s songwriting. Let’s Be Ready doesn’t even sound so much like the Americana it is so overtly trying to ape (Check the song titles: “Our Hearts Were Young,” “Baby, Hold On,” and “Shake For Me”) as it does the modern groups that found success and acclaim with that particular sound, rendering it a reissue of something almost everybody is already familiar with. If acts like The War on Drugs and The Tallest Man on Earth are shamelessly indebted to Springsteen and Dylan, then The Wooden Sky is shamelessly indebted to The War on Drugs and The Tallest Man on Earth. It gets a little tired the third time around.
There are two major elements working against Let’s Be Ready. While we may not outright question The Wooden Sky's authenticity, there’s definitely a kind of safe, hipster-approved aura to the album, the kind that you could also throw over a Kmart PA system and it wouldn’t feel out-of-place. On top of this, The Wooden Sky possess the charisma of that alright-opening-band-you-saw-that-one-time. Nothing wrong with ‘em, but nothing to write home about.