The Wood Brothers
Higher Ground, South Burlington, VT 5/25/12
By Doug ColletteJune 15, 2012
As valuable as The Wood Brothers’ new live album Sky High
is in its collection of updated arrangements from their repertoire ( Oliver touted it as such more than once during the 5/25 performance),it does not demonstrate how far The Woods have come since they began performing together in 2005. The 90 minutes they spent on the stage in Higher Ground's Showcase Lounge allowed them to project a well-justified confidence in their eclectic mix of blues, folk and rock.
The guitarist Wood continued a witty patter between songs throughout the night, but that's only the most obvious progression from the comparatively shy understatement he used to display next to his brother bassist Chris (he of Medeski, Martin and…). The sibling’s harmony vocals are now more frequent and prominent in The Woods' sound, more so even than his harmonica playing, so that, in the performance of a tune like "Payday," there's a palpable sense of new abandon to these brothers.
That relish no doubt has to do with the relatively new presence of percussionist/vocalist Jano Rix. Chris and Oliver are now separated at their own microphones stage left and right to accommodate a clear sightline to the new addition to the band, so Rix’ presence presents The Wood Brothers as a versatile three-man band that often sounds twice its size. And it's not just when he joins in singing as he did when the threesome gathered round a vintage mike for "Liza Jane;" Rix’ agile drum work brings The Woods to the threshold of an even more vigorous and assertive approach.
Oliver's request for silence to the crowd at that intimate interval mid-set effectively addressed an intrusive element of socializing that marred the early part of the set and nevertheless continued til The Woods finished. Still, the chatter didn't preclude regular acclamation of tunes like "Chocolate on My Tongue," unfortunately only teased as the show wound down. As with their likeminded brethren Tedeschi Trucks Band, the trio’s mix of music remains true to its roots even as they embellish it continuously with their own inimitable personalities. “Shoo Fly Pie” has an erotic undertone to its whimsy. “Up Above My Head,” this night anyway, contained a strain of altered consciousness in with its gospel leanings. Meanwhile, “Postcards From Hell” and “Smoke Ring Halo” shatter any Americana stereotypes.
The Wood Brothers did nothing predictable to inaugurate the Memorial holiday weekend, in fact, until they brought opener Seth Walker on stage for their encore. Even then though they refused to descend to the lowest common denominator, parading through “Get Out of My Life Woman” with a panache that only reaffirmed what they’d done so well in their previous ninety minutes on stage. If The Wood Brothers continue to gain devoted fans at this rate, they may well fill the larger room at this venue and in somewhat short order to boot. It's rare to witness the growth of musicians that's in almost direct proportion to the expansion of their audience.Setlist
Up Above My Head
When I Was Young
One More Day
Postcards From Hell
Smoke Ring Halo
Trouble In Mind
Get Out My Life