The good news? The Wood Brothers have just reissued probably their best record, The Muse, in a 2 LP gatefold package and it is due for release on March 5th, 2021 from their own label, Honey Jar Records. The bad news? There is little surprise that due to its overwhelming popularity, this reissue sold out in just the pre-sale. But wait! There is more GOOD NEWS! Because of the great demand, a third pressing currently in the works and a link to get your name on the list for a copy is at the end of this article. But first, let’s explore why this record sold out so fast. Why is it such an important album to so many?
Sometimes when a band heads into the studio, everything lines up perfectly to help them create a recording of what makes them truly special and it gets set there to be remembered and revisited for generations. The Wood Brothers’ October 2013 release, The Muse, is widely considered the best of the band’s catalog. And why wouldn’t it be? Just before the sessions for this album, Oliver and Chris Wood had relocated their families to Nashville so that they could live closer and facilitate their collective music-making. It was also the first record they released as the band that we know today. Jano Rix had joined Oliver and Chris not long prior to these Nashville sessions as the band’s full-time percussionist/multi-instrumentalist/sneak attack. Both Oliver and Chris had songs ready for this album that would prove to be cornerstone tunes that fans still do not want to miss hearing in their live sets almost a decade later. Songs like the title track, “The Muse,” “Neon Tombstone,” “Keep Me Around,” “Losin’ Streak,” and “Honey Jar.”
It is not just the songs but their craft that marks the uniqueness of not only this particular project but this band. We are reminded that, as songwriters, Chris and Oliver Wood exist on an exclusive plain of performers that can perfectly balance the light and dark of their lyrics. They show, better than just about anyone, that to get to and understand the light of life, you must slog through and experience the dark. This thread runs through almost every song on this album. Even the cover illustration shows us the beauty of which to beware. And who better to have helmed this ship through his production than music legend Buddy Miller. Buddy Miller, the Nashville icon who has worked with the likes of Emmylou Harris, Robert Plant, Linda Ronstadt, Steve Earle, and Gillian Welch. Through a very unobtrusive and gentle production style, Buddy made sure that the very best that these rising stars of rootsy Americana could create would be committed to the recording.
This reissue will bring much-needed auditory salve to fans left out in the stinging cold of the rapid sellout of its original pressing. They have patiently waited a long time for this moment. Why? Why not just listen to a streamable version and call it good? One reason is the musical nuances – spaces – the interludes. On the vinyl, there are seven interludes left off the digital releases that fill moments between songs with washes of sound that range from a quick harmonica and bass jam to an electric guitar simply meditating on a riff, to flourishes of the grand piano.
In a way, they are muses unto themselves that lead the listener into the next song or reprise a previous mood. These interludes are built into the tracklisting and these short instrumentals give the record dimension. Listening to one interlude specifically, under the right volume, it sounds as if Oliver is playing a resonator right there in the room with you and if you opened your eyes you might just offer him a beer out of habit. These interludes make the record way more intimate. And in addition to the creative depth that we can only get through the vinyl, there is, of course, the depth of the audio as well. We hear a fuller, warmer mix of these well-loved songs that make them seem even more perfect than they were when we listened before. The digital edges are here worn down, and they slide into your ears comfortably the way your favorite hoodie slides over your shoulders.
This time of Covid reminds us of how truly badass this band is and how much their shows are missed. More often than not, their performances were razor-sharp, so much so that they inspired headshakes of disbelief. This is one of those bands that can play live whatever they can record in a studio but play it better in front of folks. Their wide appeal and acceptance are typified by the fact that The Muse found itself a comfortable landing spot in each of the Country, Indie, Folk and Rock charts. This band and their shows are very much missed for now. Our only hope is that 2021 finds some Wood Brothers dates on its calendar and that, if that can’t happen, maybe we get one or two more of these reissues (Smoke Ring Halo and Loaded would be awesome!).
To reserve your copy of the second pressing of this magnificent reissue, go here and get your name on the list..