After pursuing separate careers in music for 15 years, brothers Chris and Oliver Wood formed The Wood Brothers, along with drummer Jano Rix. They released their debut record, Ways Not To Lose, in 2006 and have previously recorded at Zac Brown’s Southern Ground Studios. Now they’re back with their sixth album, One Drop Of Truth.
The album opens with River Takes The Town, a twangy upbeat track with plenty of bounce from the upright bass. There’s a great bluesy feel to the song and I like the almost gospel feel to the song as it builds to a crescendo halfway through before dropping back down (which becomes a bit of a hallmark of the record later on).
Band member Oliver Wood has previously described One Drop Of Truth as ‘the freest album we’ve done’, and that’s certainly true based on the mix of musical styles featured. Happiness Jones has classic rock vibes, whilst Sky High features a funky bassline with plenty of slide guitar and Sparkling Wine mixes a jarring intro with mellow, jangly guitar and bittersweet, reflective lyrics.
However, what brings the whole thing together is the band members’ great vocals. Oliver Wood has a solid combination of gravel and twang in his voice, most notably on the resigned yet fiercely individual This Is It and the laidback Seasick Emotions. The latter song’s melody puts me in mind of early R.E.M. and the simple arrangement allows his soulful vocals to stand out. His harmonies with brother Chris also have a smooth, rich quality to them which works particularly well on the defiant title track, almost acting as an anchor amid the song’s changing tempo.
For me the standout song on the record is Laughin’ Or Cryin’. It starts with a sparse, swampy vibe before launching into some of the most unique imagery I’ve heard in any song this year – think crows kissing under rainbows, enormous rats with keys to the city (which I can’t help thinking is a metaphor for something) and angels smoking cigarettes. The song swings from a rollicking barroom feel on the chorus to a piano melody that’s almost a capella and back again, and wouldn’t sound out of place on something like the Beatles’ Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. I also really enjoyed Strange As It Seems, an acoustic number which paints wonderfully detailed pictures of its characters and really captures the sense of being lonely even when you’re with someone.
The album closes with Can’t Look Away, a slow acoustic song which almost seems to stretch out its guitar parts. The vignettes of the song’s characters are incredibly vivid, most notably on the third verse, and there’s a starkness to the song’s arrangement which particularly highlights the vocals and guitar.
Overall The Wood Brothers have made one of the most eclectic and interesting albums of 2018 so far. It’s packed with quirky and vivid imagery, bluesy, funky grooves and strong harmonies which give it a fun and carefree feel, and reveals more about itself on every listen. The record may not be to everyone’s taste, but if you’re willing to try something a bit more experimental then I’d definitely encourage you to give this a whirl.
Track listing: 1. River Takes The Town 2. Happiness Jones 3. Laughin’ Or Cryin’ 4. Strange As It Seems 5. Sky High 6. Seasick Emotions 7. This Is It 8. Sparkling Wine 9. One Drop Of Truth 10. Can’t Look Away Record label: Honey Jar Records Release date: 8th June 2018