The Wood Brothers: South Burlington, VT, June 4, 2013
South Burlington, VT
June 4, 2013
The distinct progression that's taken place since the Wood Brothers began playing together in 2004 has become an abiding pleasure to watch. Successive concerts evince distinct evolution and, in the latest appearance at this Vermont venueagain as a versatile trioThe Woods continued the slow inexorable movement toward playing like a full-fledged blues-rock band.
When (not if!) that day comes, it will not be at the expense of the subtle charm that has been, and continues to be, their hallmark. Even as the elder sibling Oliver Wood brandished a slide to use on his electric guitar on "Liza Jane" and "Make Me Down a Pallet on Your Floor," moving across the stage to face off with younger brother, bassist Chris (Medeski, Martin & Wood), the group's customary three-part harmonies took precedence for a third of the two-hour set.
Besides the interval, The Woods circled a single mike, percussionist Jano Rix taking center stage twice, turning his stringed instrument into a source of rhythm as he authoritatively lent his voice to three-part vocals as on the uplifting opener, "Sing About It." The gospel overtones that leaven the country blues blend the Wood Brothers have perfected as a duo were less apparent in their June 4th appearance than in the past, but there's no denying how affecting this version of "Ain't No More Cane" was; each of the three took a turn on lead vocals to pay heartfelt homage to The Band.
Given the generally youthful demographic of the voluble audience that filled Higher Ground's Showcase Lounge this early summer Tuesday night, the resonance may all be in the performance sans historical reference, but that's acceptable given the honest connection the Wood Brothers make with their audience. "Postcards from Hell," "Luckiest Man" and the cheery "Shoofly Pie" resonated from the stage and back again.
The wry turns of lyric phrase, the nuance in the singing (particularly in Oliver Wood's delivery)not to mention the personality with which the group transcends its rootsis the difference between being derivative and having style. Add to that the markedly adult attitude in original songs such as "One More Day" and "When I Was Young" and it's clear how much room for growth there is for the group and its followers.
Thus, even as the Wood Brothers continues to be one of multiple projects for its principles, there's every indication this is a venture to be as loyally maintained as their friendly relationship with their fans. Early in the set, Los Lobos' "I Got Loaded" was no more mere crowd-pleasing than the final tune of the night, Allen Toussaint's "Get Out of My Life Woman"; so to exit into the cool night air was no more pleasurable than the crisp sounds that had just filled that small South Burlington room.