Will Stratton (b. 1987) is an American songwriter, guitarist, and arranger. He takes his surname from his great grandfather George Stratton, who was a traveling preacher in Kentucky, in the tradition of the “circuit riders.” Circuit riders were Methodist preachers who rode their routes on horseback, holding services in a different town each day of the week. George’s daughter Louise was Will’s maternal grandmother, and Louise, or “Honey,” as Will knew her, bought Will a piano when he was four years old, and made him sit down and practice every day. Will never really found religion, at least not in a concrete sense, but music took its place early on and never let go.
Over the course of five full-length albums, several online-only releases and national attention from outlets like NPR, Stratton has strived to impart a balance between the eloquent lyrical perspectives festooning his music, and his ever-evolving approach to multi-tiered folk.
“Gray Lodge Wisdom” was written and recorded while Stratton underwent a year of chemotherapy, several extensive surgeries, and other treatment stemming from a diagnosis of late-stage testicular cancer in 2012, Stratton is understandably conflicted about the way his new record might come across.
“I hope that this doesn’t come across as a Record About Cancer, because it’s not,” explains Stratton. “I think that it informed the process and the sound of the record more than it affected the content of some of the songs.”
Through repeated listens to “Gray Lodge Wisdom” that sentiment becomes crystal clear via plaintive, sprawling folk odes confronting the light, the dark, and the void between those two spectrums.
“Will Stratton’s songs are beautiful and bracing, despite — or maybe because of — the abstract, ambitious goals that motivate him…[his] songs gain strength from their ambiguity; stylistically, they’re too imaginative to be easily pigeonholed. Sufjan Stevens and Nick Drake both work as reference points; like them, Stratton makes songs that are elegantly orchestrated. But Stratton is rapidly coming into his own.”
David Garland, for NPR Music
“The talent seeping out of this record (2010′s New Vanguard Blues) makes me equal parts jealous and joyful that such beauty exists in this lonesome world. Someone needs to sign this kid. Like, yesterday.”
Mark Schoneveld, YVYNYL