Album Review: The Wood Brothers – Live At The Barn

Chris Wood, the highly talented bass player and mastermind behind the jazzy, jam band grooves of Medeski, Martin & Wood, also teams up with his brother Oliver on guitar and drummer Jano Rix to perform and record music as The Wood Brothers. After the success of their latest studio release Paradise (recorded at The Black Keys Dan Auerbach’s Easy Eye studio in Nashville, TN) the band is set to release Live At The Barn (Honey Jar Records/Thirty Tigers) this Friday. The barn we’re talking about is Levon Helm’s famed Woodstock barn, and after their performance there for Helm’s legendary Midnight Ramble, the brothers returned there to a sold out crowd and the energy and rocking vibes will always be remembered with this live album release.

The crowd immediately screams with excitement as Oliver breaks into the opening chords of Mary Anna. The acoustic guitar adds to the stripped back theme of the barn venue. The song changes from a fast-paced country-ish tempo into a waltz during the chorus. The transitions into the chorus and then back into the verse are seamless and prove the swift musicianship of the band.

One of my favorite Wood Brothers songs is their cover of Little Bob’s I Got Loaded. Last summer when they played BRIC Celebrate Brooklyn festival at Prospect Park, I heard them sound checking this song and it sounded just as amazing as it does on this live recording. Everything about this song brings you to your feet and gets your body moving. At the end of the song Oliver calls on the audience to sing the song with him and by the end of the song both the performers and audience are partying to their desires to get drunk and have a good time.

Tried and Temped is another great example of the flawless chemistry and impeccable dynamics that the Wood Brothers perform with. For most of the song the music is relatively mellow with a building bass groove and some short electric guitar licks here and there. By the end of the song the band turns up to one hundred percent and the energy level begins to rock throughout the barn.

Who The Devil sandwiched directly in the middle of their set couldn’t be any more of a perfect choice. It has the upbeat, snare drum rattling energy to wake up any of the tired yawners, and also drives the country/rock/folk momentum that started earlier in the night. The middle of the song features an electric guitar solo with heavy distortion. This may have been the highlight of the show.

The second to last song was Honey Jar, a funk rock, bass heavy jam that serves as a perfect wind down to a highly energetic concert. The brothers mix up the tempo and meter in this song a bit which makes it more exciting and makes the transitions seem like an absolute Hallelujah moment. The last track on the album is a cover of The Band’s Ophelia. This is a very fitting set closer as a way to thank Levon Helm for inviting them to his Woodstock barn for Midnight Ramble, and now they’ve played their own separate headlining sold out show there. The Wood Brothers are a very exciting band and we can’t wait to check out their NYC show in a few weeks.

Scott J. Herman