“Henry the Van’ is the first cut on Australian Danny George Wilson’s latest record. It’s a funeral for a friend, who is a car. “Guess we could try to fix you up . . . Maybe go for an easy roll once in a blue sky . . .” The concept may be funny, but it’s a lot more touching than most songs about actual people who’ve died. This is a testament to Wilson’s skill, imagination, compassion, and his ability to communicate.
You may remember Danny George as the singer-guitarist of Grand Drive, a much-loved Americana group, but his solo venture is far, far more interesting. And make no mistake: This is a Danny George Wilson production. Despite the harmonies and quality musicianship, Danny and the Champions of the World are really a solo venture. Wilson most closely mirrors Neil Young’s country rock phrasing, and sometimes the similarity is almost uncanny, but his voice is unique: It’s cheery and optimistic, even when singing about getting old and being sad, and it’s romantically simple. The lyrics are direct and uncomplicated, but ring true, powerfully: “I wanna feel your hand in my hand tonight . . . Just trying to get back to what we used to be/Just trying to get back to something to believe/Looking down at these restless feet.”
If this album doesn’t make you feel something, maybe you’re dead inside.
Henry the Van (the second best song about a van I’ve ever heard. The first is “Chevy Van” by Sammy Johns, available on the Rhino “Sounds of the ’70s” collection.)