Janie Franz
contributor
July 20, 2006
Buy it at Insound!
Amazon:
Three of a Kind Three of a Kind
January 25, 2005
The Wood Brothers w/John Baker
Bluegrass Favorites Bluegrass Favorites
September 4, 1991
K-Tel
More Recent Album Reviews:
Chk Chk Chk
Ahab Rex
Alias & Tarsier
Arrah & the Ferns
Beach House
Beastie Boys
Black Lips
Brand New
Consequence
Copeland
Dat'r
Deer Tick
Deerhoof
Dirty on Purpose
Dntel
Emily Haines & the Soft Skeleton
Fall Out Boy
Feist
Forgive Durden
Grinderman
Harley Poe
Isobel Campbell
Ladyhawk
Loch Lomond
Love Arcade
Menomena
Modest Mouse
Mohair
My Chemical Romance
Novi Split
Rufus Wainwright
Scissor Sisters
Scott Walker
Sean Lennon
Sonic Youth
Spoon
St. Vincent
Straylight Run
Supreeme
Tech N9ne
Tegan and Sara
The Decemberists
The Good The Bad and The Queen
The Killing Moon
The Polyphonic Spree
The Rosebuds
The Shins
The Used
Under the Influence of Giants
Unkle
Recent Soapbox:
Recent Live Reviews:
Recent Interviews:
Sponsored Advertising
Rock Music Reviews
Wood Brothers
Ways Not to Lose

Backroads meets the big city in the collaboration between Oliver Wood and his brother Chris, the bass player from Medeski Martin and Wood. Though they were raised around music, especially music that their father played in the Denver folk scene, Chris and Oliver went their separate ways musically and geographically. Chris went North to study jazz among the intellectuals and eventually found musicians of similar inclination and formed the jazz heavy jam trio Medeski Martin and Wood. Oliver chose to explore the university system in California before settling in Atlanta and absorbing the local blues scene. Oliver’s first full-time music gig was playing with Tinsley Ellis. Later, he formed what became a six-piece New Orleans funk and blues band called King Johnson.

“We lived so far apart and grew apart socially, but grew closer musically,” Oliver told me in an interview, “We both learned how to play, how to listen, how to improvise.”

As chance would have it, the brothers’ bands were booked on a double bill in Winston-Salem about three years ago. Oliver sat in with his guitar in Chris’ band, and soon the brothers began working up some old King Johnson songs. After cutting a demo, they started touring together early last year in between gigs with each of their bands. Last September, the brothers entered Allaire Studios and recorded Ways Not To Lose.

What emerged was a blend of the complexities of jazz bass and the gutsyness of roots blues. Oliver’s songs, which he delivers with a plain honesty, are fresh yet capture the road-weariness of Delta blues and are enhanced by Chris’ vocal backup. The instrumentation is minimalist but organic and is shown in Oliver’s clean guitar work, whether on a moody resonator guitar, an acoustic, or an electric, and Chris’ intricate standup bass riffs, that are enhanced with restrained slaps or a bow. Restrained drums and percussion by Kenny Wollesen complement without intruding.

Of particular note is the flat out blues of “Chocolate on My Tongue,” with it’s bar room feel and the unexpected line, “If I die young, at least I got some chocolate on my tongue.” And “Spirit” is more about wanting to find it than not: “If the spirit moves you/please won’t you send him/to me.”

The only cover in the lot is their naked version of the Stanley Brothers standard “Angel Band.” It’s naked, without elaborate harmonies (except for Chris’s pleasant backup) or intense instrumentation. Yet, it sounds like something you could still hear sung in some tiny little church along the Mississippi.

Ways Not to Lose is a welcome glimpse into what the Wood Brothers will be bringing us for years to come. They will be appearing at the 10,000 Lakes Festival later this month, along with Medeski Martin and Wood and a slew of other acts.

Release date: March 7, 2006
Label: Blue Note
Rating: 8.0 / 10

On the web: http://www.thewoodbrothers.com
[RMR]