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Monday, November 16, 2009

The Wood Brothers May 21 House of Blues Cleveland: Past, Present & Future of American Music

In some record stores the Wood Brothers, Oliver (l) and Chris (r), find their CDs filed under the broad folk category. But the show the Woods turned in on May 21 at the House of Blues in downtown Cleveland was anything but introspective. The 200 seat Cambridge Room, adorned in medieval decor, was perfect for an impressive intimate performance consisting of heart felt, soul laden acoustic blues--many of them originals. The wholesome sound of the Wood Brothers live is organic and natural but with perhaps a dash of preservative for good measure. The set on a wonderful Ohio night by the lake featured songs from their 2008 release Loaded (Blue Note). "Don't let me fall too fast, I want to fall slowly, I want my fall to last," sang vocalist Oliver Wood who soon had the folks who were sitting cross-legged on the floor in the palm of his hand. On "Fall Too Fast" his voice possessed an aged quality and youthful innocence sounding both vintage and in-step. Bassist Chris Wood is more than technically proficient on his instrument (he of jazz jam band Medeski, Martin & Wood), showed more grit, fire, and soul that first imaginable. Intent on showing they are no flukes when it comes to exploring the deep well spring that is American music, the Woods unleashed a rousing gospel version of "You Never Can Pray Enough," which had the more zealous of the believers swaying tie dye in the aisle. The blues roots showed early and often with a stunning reading of "Make Me Down a Pallet on Your Floor"(Mississippi John Hurt). "Postcards From Hell," which according to Oliver is purportedly about a guy who "plays in a chicken coop" featured Chris Wood getting out the bow for his bass fiddle. Not to be outdone by anyone in the Cleveland area, the Woods whipped out a Beck cover for good measure. The boys also did a song for their mother who had recently passed. "Lovin' Arms" must make Mrs. Wood awfully proud somewhere. Their sounds alternated from jazzy to folky and back to bluesy seamlessly. Initially Oliver had been playing a National steel guitar but he got out an acoustic for "Liza Jane," a song featured on their most recent effort Up Above My Head (Sister Rosetta Tharpe). In the Wood Brothers ever-capable hands this New Orleans stalwart sounded fresh, loose, and invigorated. Next up was "Chocolate on My Tongue" from the release Ways Not To Lose; about this time the vibe was getting good, of course, just as things were winding down. "Fixing a Hole" contained an attention-grabbing bass solo from Chris. The Wood Brothers live far apart in real life and only get to see each other at these shows. Here's to the whole Wood family; hope you can get together more often in the near future. Chris Wood appears with Medeski, Martin & Wood at the Intersection in Grand Rapids on Nov. 18. Check www.sectionlive.com for more details.

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