Chris and Oliver Wood grew up with a shared love of roots music, largely due to a musical father, but their musical paths separated as Chris explored the world of jazz and older brother Oliver honed his skills as a singer/songwriter keeping to his early musical interests. The two brother’s separate musical journeys converged a decade ago when they began performing as a duo. The two musician’s different styles worked well with Chris’ wizardry on up-right bass and Oliver’s classic Americana songwriting and guitar playing. The duo played exclusively acoustic until recently, when they incorporated electric guitar and electric bass into some of their material and added multi-instrumentalist Jano Rix on shuitar (a percussion instrument fashioned from an acoustic guitar), drums, and occasionally keyboards, which opened up their sound but kept to their blues and rock roots.
The band opened the Woodstock show with “The Muse”, the title track of their 2013 release of the same name, which is a beautiful song about inspiration that featured Rix on melodica.Rix moved behind the drum kit that featured a washboard where a tom-tom would go on a standard drum set for “Never and Always” , the first song the band played from their brand new album, Paradise, released only a few days before the show.
“Atlas”, one of the standout tracks from The Wood Brothers debut album, the 2006 release, Ways Not to Lose, featured an excellent solo by Chris on stand-up bass, and had much of the audience of the nearly sold out show singing along to the chorus. Chris strapped on a harmonica for a song written by Oliver for their mother, the moving “Loving Arms”, from the band’s 2008 album Loaded. “Snake Eyes”, another cut from the new album was electric, not just because The Wood Brothers welded electric instruments with Oliver on a vintage hollow body and Chris on electric bass and harmonica.
A segment of the show Oliver Wood announced as “The Wood Brothers: Where Art Thou?” segment required a request for the audience to be extra quiet as it had all three members voices and their instruments played through a vintage microphone. The traditional song “Angel Band” was a real trip back in time with the old-timey microphone giving the song that real early 20th Century sound. “Shoofly Pie” also had an early Americana feel, even though it is a contemporary song written by Oliver and it was played through the band’s regular set-up. The set finished strong with “Singin’ to Strangers” from the new album and a pair of songs from The Muse record, “Wasting My Mind” and “Honey Jar”. The band reassembled to the delight of the crowd for a couple of songs for an encore, “Luckiest Man”, which featured Jano Rix on keyboards, and a cover of “Ophelia” by The Band.
Earlier performances by The Wood Brothers were understated, while excellent musically, as Oliver usually remained seated with an acoustic guitar and Chris was a stoic presence behind the stand-up bass. This performance showed a much more animated Woods Brothers with Chris dancing his stand-up bass around ala Rockabilly bands and Oliver Wood standing for the whole show and even venturing to the stage edge to shred on guitar. Live the expanding palette of the Avett Brothers, The Wood Brothers are carving up new fans and keeping it real.
Photos by Richard Clarke