The Wood Brothers’ ‘One Drop of Truth’ Wins With Intimacy and Inclusion (ALBUM REVIEW)

The Wood Brothers’ One Drop of Truth should have the same wholly positive effect on the fans who hear it as on new listeners to the group. This seventh studio record offers so satisfying an experience, it will whet the appetite to hear the earlier efforts of this now certifiably great band.

To be fair, the Wood Brothers never completely lost the sly, witty charm of their earliest work as they evolved from their debut Ways Not to Lose. But, perhaps because Chris and Oliver felt increasingly confident (and rightly so) in their command of the folk, rock, blues and other roots music,  the duo—and later as the trio with multi-instrumentalist Jano Rix– concentrated more on experimentation in the recording studio. Those projects took place in collaboration with outside musicians and producers, but for the Wood Brothers’ third record on the Honey Jar label, the threesome played and produced all the music themselves.

The resulting clarity of those efforts afforded them the latitude to utilize a small number of technical collaborators to mix the ten tracks according to their respective tone and texture. Engineers including MMW’s Scotty Hard and Grammy Award-winning Trina Shoemaker did justice to the stable foundation so that One Drop of Truth exhibits an immaculate consistency of sound. Meanwhile, the Brothers’ naturally sardonic sense of humor, as displayed on  “Happiness Jones,” helps unify their eclectic style.

And it’s further solidified by the basic instrumental lineup of bass, guitar and drums, a deceptively skeletal format broadened in large measure through the versatility of Rix. Besides his primary role as a percussionist, he also adds varied instrumental flavors such as the tart sonics of clavinet on “Sparkling Wine,” besides adding third harmonies to the vocals of the siblings. As a result, the full-throated singing is a complement to the limber musicianship.

Further expanding the range of sound here, Oliver Wood utilizes his electric guitar during tracks like “Laughin’ or Crying” to balance the use acoustic guitars used so often elsewhere. The resulting equilibrium not only enhances the main influences of the Wood Brothers’ music but also nurtures an atmosphere of intimacy and inclusion that’s maintained within their original songs.  “Sky High,” for instance, is perfectly tongue-in-cheek and “Seasick Emotions” is almost equally arch, especially with the bottleneck of the elder Wood, but there’s also a heartfelt sincerity at the heart of those words comparable to the more direct expression of “This Is It.“ And the narrative woven in and out of “Can’t Look Away” cuts to the quick in such a way it compels a closer listening (and may also call for reading the lyrics printed on the inside of this triple-fold digi-pak).

The front cover image of the package mirrors the quietly provocative content it encloses. Set in a subdued color scheme, the photo requires a second look (or more) to fully appreciate its detail, just as those cuts behind it carry much more weight than mere ten tracks would suggest. As often as the Wood Brothers have fashioned previous albums in homage to their antecedents—The Muse as tribute to the Band, for instance—One Drop of Truth is a work of comparable depth that can stand on its own merits and as worthy of comparison to the work of their forebears, including that of the hallowed music city of Nashville in which the record originated.

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