THE WOOD BROTHERS
Album review: "Smoke Ring Halo"
On their third CD, the Wood Brothers are busy mixing and morphing it up. The group sounds like a washboard string band (minus the washboard) on the opening track "Mary Anna," then a folk trio transformed by a jolt of electricity and a slide guitar on "Shoofly Pie." Its members are devoted disciples of Bob Dylan (on the harmonica and organ-powered "Pay Attention") and Tom Waits (on the pulp confession "Stumbled In"), plus proponents of funk grooves and gospel shouts elsewhere. All the while, the group celebrates its influences with spirit and grit.
And humor, too. "Pay Attention," for example, boasts a lyric that could be from a Loudon Wainwright III album. Likewise, "When I Was Young" is a wry Mose Allison-like lament, driven by syncopated acoustic guitar rhythms that Dave Matthews could embrace. Not everything clicks, but the trio - guitarist/lead singer Oliver Wood, bassist Chris Woods and drummer Tyler Greenwell - projects a loose, unvarnished sound that makes up for some routine lyrics.
Augmenting the trio are several guests, including country singer Zac Brown, who briefly contributes vocal harmonies, and keyboardist John Medeski, Chris Wood's bandmate in Medeski Martin and Wood.
No, "Smoke Ring Halo" doesn't offer anything groundbreaking, but it has more than enough energy and wit to fuel the band's summer round of concerts.
--Mike Joyce, Aug. 12, 2011