“I don’t care what you call it, as long as it’s inclusive.” –Oliver Wood on The Wood Brothers musical genre.
“The word ‘Americana’ is a little, well… it doesn’t have enough blues in it, enough gospel in it, enough jazz in it,” guitarist and vocalist Oliver Wood explains.
“What I like about ‘American music’ is how all those traditions just sort of have a stew that they make. I like that we can still be creative within the confines of this music to make our own recipes with all of these ingredients.”
As brothers, Chris and Oliver Wood have made music together since a very young age, though they took very different musical paths after high school. It wasn’t until a little more than 10 years ago that they began to explore the possibilities of making music together professionally.
“He (Chris) went northeast and got into the Jazz scene and my path was completely different,” Oliver Wood reminisces. “I went south to Atlanta and started King Johnson.”
“That is why it is fun now,” he continues. “We don’t have any of that weird baggage you might have if you had been playing together since you were kids. It’s nice to go form yourself.”
Clearly, both Chris and Oliver did form themselves in their time apart. It is, in fact, the clashing of their two very different styles that makes their sound so unique. The addition of Jano Rix on percussion, keys, shuitar, melodica, and pretty much any other instrument you can make noise with, is just one more way to expand the sounds they can make.
It is also a nearly perfect fit.
“We hired him as a drummer,” Oliver Wood tells me. “As it turned out he is also a great singer and he is an incredible piano player.”
Still, Rix’s value lies beyond his traditional instruments. He plays the shuitar, an instrument of his own making which uses a shitty old guitar rigged with percussive devices, a truly American instrument. He brings fullness to their sound with percussion, and can help to create a stripped down, intimate feel with his work on the keys and melodica.
He has also been a big part of the writing and production of their most recent work, something even more valuable as they have begun to produce and engineer their own records.
Always moving in new directions, their newer albums feature more of an electric sound at times than their older stuff. Don’t be fooled though. They won’t be pigeonholed that way, either.
“It’s not so much of a direction as that it’s just something that is happening right now,” Oliver Wood concludes. “Our beginnings were really just the two of us and the beautiful thing is that we can still do that any time we want. With the drummer and the electric instruments though we have this fourth gear that we can go into. It’s not so much a change as adding an additional space that we can go into.”
“I have this box I want to work in,” he continues, “but there is a lot you can do and still push the boundaries. Americana to me? That is Elvis, Michael Jackson, Ray Charles, B.B. King, Willie Nelson, all of those guys. I don’t care what you call it, as long as it is inclusive.”
Or put another way by Levon Helm (whose legendary venue, The Barn in Woodstock, N.Y., is where The Wood Brother’s most recent album was recorded) when interviewed on The Last Waltz, “I think that’s what they call rock and roll.”
The Wood Brothers play Thursday, April 6 at The Orange Peel. Tickets are $25 in advance and the show starts at 8pm.
Caleb Calhoun studied writing at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and music at a plethora of clubs and bars across the southeast. He is the author and publisher of Rosman City Blues and currently resides outside of Asheville with his dog and best friend, Dr. Gonzo.