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The Wood Brothers

(24 Sep 2011: The Fox Theatre — Boulder, CO)

It was kind of a weird night at The Fox, and for no other reason than they put some chairs in the front section of the floor for this show—it’s normally a standing room only venue that gets overcrowded before it reaches its 650 capacity. There may have been the though that people wouldn’t be interested in dancing to the mostly laid-back Americana of The Wood Brothers. But sounds on an album can be deceiving: it was still a shuffle-your-feet kind of evening.


It was a hometown show for the brothers Wood. Chris—better known for his work with Medeski, Martin & Wood—and his older brother Oliver grew up together in Boulder, CO and “try to milk that as much as [they] can,” according to Oliver. And rightfully so—the Boulder faithful are proud, and will do just about anything short of mixing paper with plastic to defend their town.


Following an hour-long set by Clay Cook (Zac Brown Band, John Mayer, among others), The Wood Brothers took to the stage alongside drummer Jano Rix on a Saturday to a nearly packed house, and for the next two hours played a healthy mix of songs both upbeat and mellow—full of bass solos, sing-alongs, drum breaks, and, of course, a groove.


The show consisted mostly of songs from their newest release, Smoke Ring Halo, including the title track, as well as “Stumbled In”, “Made it up the Mountain”, and show opener “When I Was Young”. “Shoofly Pie”, another from the new record, rides on Chris’s bass. Watching him play the line on his upright bass is like watching a grasshopper fight a spider—his hand crawls and jumps all over the neck while Oliver waxes poetic about his favorite dessert.


What was most surprising to me—though I’m rather familiar with their catalogue—were the amount of references to faith in their songs. When just listening to an album, you might notice one or two that jump out at you. But with tunes from all four records mixed up and jumbled into one set, it was far more noticeable. It’s not that they’re being preachy though, it’s far from overbearing, nor are they classified as a religious band in any respect—it’s just what they write about. Mostly, it seems to be Oliver’s pondering over faith, as one might question a lover (reference: most of the songs that have ever been written). Though many listeners are for some reason turned off by references to God of any kind in music, (meanwhile, it’s widely accepted in literature, film, fine art, etc.), this is a refreshing change. The Wood’s do it with grace, and don’t focus on it as a reason for listening to their music.


Although they focused mostly on new songs, they did not ignore their favorites from previous albums. A slowed-down version of “Pray Enough” from Loaded and a jacked up “One More Day” from Ways Not to Lose were certain highlights. After bringing Cook on stage for a few songs, the encore featured an Allen Toussaint song, “Get out of My Life Woman”, which appears on their album Up Above My Head. The Wood Brothers original fan favorite, “Luckiest Man” from Ways Not to Lose closed out the show.



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Jonathan Kosakow has been a regular contributor for PopMatters since 2009, and became Associate Events Editor two years later. He contributes to Glide Magazine's Hidden Track blog (www.hiddentrackblog.com), both on his own and as a member of the editorial collective Three Grown Men. His writing has also appeared on Relix.com and Jambands.com, but most of it can be found on the floor of his apartment or stashed away in files on his computer. Jonathan recently earned his Graduate Certificate in Creative Writing from the University of Denver, and does his best to be an active member of the music and writing community in the Denver/Boulder area. He is the Director of Operations at the Boulder-based company Eco Vessel, and is the co-founder of the music-related website NoiseReport.net, and the beer-related blog beermadeclear.com, both currently in production.


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Smoke Ring Halo captures the sound of brothers falling in love with roots music of their past all over again.
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28 Jun 2006
The Wood Brothers have just a guitar, upright bass and a few other instruments to their name. But don't tell them they can't sound like Muddy Waters and Hank Williams on the same album.
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