The Bowery Ballroom
The Wood Brothers

The Wood Brothers

Rayland Baxter

Fri, March 1, 2013

Doors: 8:00 pm / Show: 9:00 pm

The Bowery Ballroom

New York, NY

$20 advance / $22 day of show

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This event is 21 and over

The Wood Brothers
The Wood Brothers
Just before plucking the opening chords of “Stumbled In” on the band’s upcoming live album, Live Vol. 1 Sky High, Oliver Wood poses a simple question to the audience: “Anybody going to church tomorrow?” he deadpans.

While The Wood Brothers might not extol any particular religious values, this marginally sarcastic comment elicits applause, whistles and shouts. As Oliver later confesses, the tune is more about, “the spiritual benefits of a nightclub” than a loftier pursuit, but the atmosphere created at a Wood Brothers gig is not unlike an old-school revival: there’s a whole lot of sweatin’, shoutin’, stompin’ and singin’ happening.

The band’s fusion of folk, blues, jazz and classic R&B has evolved dramatically in its existence, and there’s no clearer proof than the in-the-moment magic of this matched set of live albums, which will be released several months apart. Since forming roughly eight years ago, the brothers Wood have transformed from a stripped-down, roots-rock-inspired duo with jazz leanings to a rollicking trio capable of holding their own in 10,000-seat arenas.

“The songs were arranged in a certain way so that we could play just the two of us,” guitarist and primary vocalist Oliver recalls. “We’ve been playing a lot of these songs for a few years, and we added a drummer as well, so we wanted to put out some of the old music again in its new, different sound and capture what we’ve been doing the past couple of years live.”

Beyond the addition of percussion — and occasional lap steel with Zac Brown band member Clay Cook guesting on Sky High — the Woods’ songs have the benefit of time, talent and hindsight; Chris and Oliver have been able to tweak the tunes as much or little as needed. So, in an interesting twist, the live album essentially afforded the band an opportunity to record more polished versions of several songs that had appeared on previous studio albums.

“We only had two weeks to make one album in particular,” Oliver says. “Now we have, in my opinion, better versions of songs that were already good.”

Although Chris and Oliver have an undeniable musical chemistry, it took them many years to recognize and acknowledge it. Both men left their childhood home in Colorado after their respective high school graduations. After a pit stop or two, Oliver ultimately landed on the Atlanta rock scene, while Chris headed directly for New York City with the aim of, “becoming a sideman for a well-known jazz musician.”

Though he had several notable projects along the way, Oliver’s main gig was in forming and fronting the blues/roots band King Johnson, while Chris formed instrumental jazz trio Medeski Martin & Wood.

The two spent 15 years in infrequent contact before recognizing their common potential through a shared encounter. During a show in North Carolina with MMW and King Johnson sharing the bill, Oliver sat in with his brother’s band, and the two finally recognized and appreciated their connection.

“It was just really strange the way that I recognized every musical gesture that he did,” Chris remembers of the show. “It was like looking in a mirror; I just got it. At that point, it was obvious that we should make music together.”

As The Wood Brothers, Oliver’s soulful, Van Morrison-meets-Freddie King vocals weave unforgettable melodies on top of his gritty and nimble slide guitar while Chris’ jazz-inspired double bass pulses underneath the surface, his high lonesome harmonies soaring far above the fray. Behind it all, Jano Rix’s drums lend additional weight to the music and his vocal harmonies allow the trio to add even more dynamics. The final product is perhaps more accessible than either King Johnson or MMW.

MMW’s John Medeski, who produced the first two Wood Brothers albums, Ways not to Lose and Loaded, once said, “I can’t tell you how many of Oliver’s songs I thought were old traditional standards. They just sound classic.”

Though all three members of the band maintain residences in different states — a situation that the brothers plan to address as they work to further cement the band’s status as a can’t-miss live act — they have a work ethic while on the road that enables them to write new material while continually honing the “old” stuff; the results of the live album are tangible proof of the band’s desire and ability to evolve.

“You get over some kind of hump and you get just burned out enough to where you know the music inside and out,” Chris said. “You stop caring about everything going perfectly, and that’s when the magic things happen.”
Rayland Baxter
Rayland Baxter
Rayland Baxter - is a gentleman, a singer of songs, a teller of tales, a picker of strings, a thinker of things. Born in the untamed hills of Bon Aqua, Tennessee, he tells a story unlike any other, a story that is true and full of unraveling emotion. There are no lines drawn, no box to be found, in the world of rayLand Baxter. He is who he is and he tells the unmatched story. Whether it be the story of love, the story of struggle, or the story of joy, the road that he travels on is full of dust and flowers, fire and ice, comets and dreams, and he walks with stars in his eyes, leaving the scent of wild magnolias for those on his trail...and for those of us at the end, we are fortunate to find him smiling. Tradition is a staple in Rayland's music. In any given song, one can hear the nuances of his favorites from Dylan to Van Zandt, Johnson to Hopkins, or anyone else on the musical map that has tickled his fancy at one time or another. His reconstruction of song is mesmerizing in its own right...a true artist...a humble man...a dreamer.
Venue Information:
The Bowery Ballroom
6 Delancey St
New York, NY, 10002