Words by: Rich Lieberman
The Wood Brothers :: 02.07.07 :: Joe's Pub :: New York, NY
On a cold NYC evening, with lots of other musical options in town, Joe's Pub played host to a gem that'd warm the heart of any music lover. Upon entering you feel the intimacy instantly - candlelight, plush velvet couches, and fantastic, understated architecture. The Wood Brothers took the stage to a sold out room of 180 lucky people, the smallest venue on this tour.
The Wood Brothers
"We love playing in NYC," says Oliver Wood. "We like playing at a smaller venue than we normally would. I like Joe's Pub. It's a lot of fun, and it's a lot more intimate. There is such an awesome energy in the whole city. It's exciting regardless of where you go."
Oliver and Chris Wood (bassist for legendary jazz-rock trio Medeski Martin & Wood) produce a rootsy blending of blues, folk, and rock in a style that's timeless. The brothers cite their father, also a singer/songwriter, as their earliest influence. They remember digging into his record collection at a very early age. Growing up in Boulder, Colorado, they jammed together often in their early years.
"I started out on bass actually," says Oliver. "I'm four years older than Chris, and I got a bass and eventually traded it in for a guitar. I gave Chris the bass and, of course, he became one of the best bass players anybody's ever seen! So, I like to take a little credit for that."
The Wood Brothers by Sara Montour
This collaboration combines their shared childhood influences with everything they've learned since leaving home. "As far as being family, it's cool. We get to see each other and hang out a lot because we're working," says Oliver. "Musically it's cool, too. I feel like there is some sort of built-in genetic vibe that goes on, in our singing especially."
The Wood Brothers debut studio release, Ways Not To Lose, produced by John Medeski, has been garnering critical acclaim since its release last year. The crowd at Joe's Pub was treated to selections from that record in addition to great new songs. The pair plans to get back in the studio in the next few months to start recording their follow-up to Ways.
They received a warm greeting from the crowd as Chris Wood picked up his trusty stand-up bass and Oliver Wood sat down and grabbed a gorgeous National Steel Guitar. A quick hello and they launched into the blues. Oliver's voice has an inviting, distinctive southern vibe that suits the songs well. Chris just manhandles the bass, effortlessly moving up and down the frets, while also lending fine vocal harmonies.
Chris Wood by Dino Perrucci
"Chocolate on my Tongue" found Chris sliding a bow across the bass strings to accompany Oliver's fine finger-picking for one of the sweetest songs off Ways. The new songs were fresh and played well for the quietly focused crowd. The first of the new selections, written by Chris, started out with Chris rhythmically banging the side of his bass as Oliver picked up the tempo for the fast paced number.
"The first record we just jumped in and made a record. I already had a bunch of songs," says Oliver. "But, this new record, we're basically writing almost every song together. It's a total collaborative effort. We both start off writing stuff alone but eventually we bring it together. [We] both spend a lot of time with the songs and they become really collaborative. That is one of the things we are most proud of."
For this NYC gig, The Wood Brothers brought along NYC drummer Kenny Wollesen, who also appears on Ways. The drums allow the brothers to stretch out a bit, get edgier, especially on songs like "Atlas."
On "Where My Baby Might Be," Oliver quipped, "Chris Wood on the harp, ladies and gentlemen. On the bass he's a virtuoso. On the harmonica, well, he owns one." As the audience laughed, Chris was smiling and playfully flashing Oliver the bird - sibling rivalry at its best.
The Wood Brothers
This bluesy number was incredible. Chris blew the harp and played beefy, ferocious bass lines, not letting up on the harp for a single breath. Oliver's National Steel guitar rang with beautiful slide sounds. Crisp and pristine when playing soft or crunchy like George Thorogood when needed, Oliver knows just how to compliment Chris's bass.
Other highlights included "Luckiest Man," "Walk Away," and "Glad." Every once in a while it's nice to sit in a small, dark club with people that respect hearing every note of an acoustic performance. Yet, as Oliver Wood points out, this is a duo that can handle any setting. They will be joining MMW on the road soon, as well as playing festivals this summer.
"It's a different kind of vibe! That's one of the things that's really special about what we're doing," says Oliver. "[We] sort of imply a larger group in a way. Chris is such a monster bass player; he's so rhythmic and strong. It feels like between the two of us we can almost make it sound like there is a third person with us. We can make a lot of noise."
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