Instead of trying to box the Wood Brothers into a style corner by examining the trace elements of jazz, blues, and rock in their music, can we just agree to call them clever? Good. But even then, the word “clever” doesn’t begin to describe it. Consider the jazzy chord extensions and the artsy upright bass lines during the set-up of the Wood Brothers’ cover of Gregg Allman’s “Midnight Rider.” With a tender but complex build like that, a listener may wonder where the music’s going to go next. The answer comes in Oliver Wood’s singing. His lead vocal is taken straight out of the heart of soul, and the backwoods harmony that his brother Chris puts on top of it seals the deal.
One can find the roots of their previous musical lives in each song (Oliver played with Tinsley Ellis; Chris put the Wood in Medeski Martin & Wood), but the overriding feel is of porch music. Aside from the regional patois and the distinct harmonies, there’s also a sense of one-upmanship in that genre, the prize of recognition going to the writer who can best grind an old axe with new wit. This is a skill not lost on the brothers. “Keeps a letter in the pocket of his coat,” Oliver sings about an old bluesman’s source of pain, “but he never breaks the seal.”
- Thursday, January 30, 2014, 8:30 p.m.
- Belly Up Tavern, 143 S. Cedros Avenue, Solana Beach
/ $19 - $21
The Wood brothers grew up in Colorado. After 15 years apart (they now tour with drummer Jano Rix), the trio makes sounds that sometimes favor their musical heroes. You can almost hear Jimmy Reed’s washboard guitar coming out of Oliver Wood’s archtop. And some of their studio mixes sound close to the manner of music that the Band was making during their final years. The Americana stripe runs deep in Oliver, but as a fan of the abstract jazz of MMW, who knew Chris had it in him?