Heartfelt is just one characteristic of traditional American roots songs. Songs written by Oliver Wood display this and other essential lyrical traits. From fertile blues roots territory Wood is able to incorporate his own contemporary touch with folk and jazz nuances just as he did when writing songs for blues singer Shemekia Copeland. In producing Copeland's latest CD Never Going Back, Wood says he believes Copeland and her camp were looking for the Wood Brothers distinct songwriting vibe and perhaps a brief departure from her rocking blues background. "I think they hired me to have her sing some pretty stuff, some spooky songs, and atmospheric things. I guess you could say they're contemporary but more than that the songs are just different enough than your standard blues." Oliver is convinced of one thing: most audiences secretly long to see the human side of those in the spotlight. “A lot of music can be great where its appeal is that it’s real aggressive or rocking; or its real forward or great for a party,” Wood said from his home in Atlanta. “There are so many good things about those types of music. My thought is what people like, and what often as artists we forget, is that people want to hear you be vulnerable sometimes. I think people want you to expose yourself somewhat. That comes from how you perform, if you sing softly for instance, but it also has to do with subject matter--what are you singing about. There’s a lot more to sing about than relationships. But often times you can still be personal about a song and it doesn’t have to be about a relationship. It can be just about anything: politics, addiction, kids, and parents. And it takes guts to do that. People like to see you be vulnerable about in the same way that--though they don’t always realize it—they like it when you screw up. It’s the same reason people watch NASCAR to see a crash or watch a hockey game to see a fight. They're there to see people’s pain and what’s real about them. As performers a lot of time, when you’re up there performing putting on a show you’re not doing that necessarily.” Even though he got his start as a touring musician with electric blues guitar great Tinsley Ellis, Wood says the roots influences he learned first-hand from that experience serve him today. “What’s similar musically is that we’re all influenced by the same roots,” says Wood. "From Chicago blues to acoustic blues, to gospel and R & B, there are so many ways you can express those influences and everybody does it a little differently. Even now with when I’m doing my original music thing with my brother this is how we express those influences. It is quite different from the Tinsley days but not a stretch.” Root vegetables are the best thing for the body. Similarly quality roots music done the right way is nourishment for your soul. Oliver Wood, along with his brother Chris, seem to feel this more than most. Although billed as a two piece act, the Memorial Day 2011 tour by the Wood Brothers will feature an extra musical hand in drummer/vocalist Jano Rix. Rix was asked by Paul McCartney to play piano on McCartney's Driving Rain release and world tour. He has recorded with Marc Broussard, Liz Wright, Damian & Stephen Marley. The Wood Brothers come to Grand Rapids in support of their most recent collection of songs called Smoke Ring Halo. Wood is proud to announce they’ve recently signed with a fresh imprint out of the Atlanta area called Southern Ground Artists, a new start up by Zac Brown of the Zac Brown Band. “Brown is doing really well now in the country market. He loves all kinds of music and wanted to start a label so he could get some music that he likes out in front of people. We’re already touring with the new record that comes out on August 2. We’re lucky to have been picked up by him.”
The Wood Brothers featuring bassist Chris Wood (below left) of Medeski Martin & Wood tonight at the Intersection, doors at 6:30 pm.