(this piece was published by Planet Jackson Hole)
“I think we have a nice balance now in our show now of broken-down, stripped-down acoustic, more intimate subtle music leading up to the more rockin’ stuff,” explained Oliver Wood, vocalist/guitarist for The Wood Brothers. “We’re learning to balance what has characterized our records and live shows. Our drummer Jano is an amazing keyboard player and really sounds like two guys when he’s playing keys and drums at the same time. And, of course, my brother Chris is a bass virtuoso, so we can make quite a big sound when we want to, but it also feels good to strip it down to almost nothing.”
Oliver’s comments are right on the pulse of how The Wood Brothers—featuring blood brothers Chris (upright bass/vocals) and Oliver along with adopted musical bro Jano Rix—have evolved since forming around 2005 as a stripped-down duo. In addition to drum kit and keys, Rix also plays a homemade “shuitar”—a cheap acoustic guitar converted into a percussion instrument. Over the course of more than a decade, the trio has gradually grown a fanbase that is drawn to their deceptive spareness. Their collective sound is fluid, raw at times, and nearly always reflecting a roots-inspired smorgasbord of blues, folk and especially of late, rock and roll. The Nashville-based band’s latest studio album, Paradise, was recorded at Black Keys guitarist/vocalist Dan Auerbach’s studio and brings a more electric vibe though not without its delicate moments.
While they’ve played Targhee Fest a couple of times, the band’s only Jackson appearance was at the Pink Garter Theatre in 2012. During that show, they acknowledged the high level of crowd chatter from stage, motioning a few times for the crowd to quiet down as they were playing more intimate material. It worked only momentarily, and they adjusted to the room. This time around, the trio will be staged at the Center Theater where they will have physical copies of their third live album which was recorded just a couple of months ago.
“As our fanbase has grown and we play larger venues and festivals, I think you can’t help but be influenced by the kind of audiences that you have,” Oliver responded when I asked him about rowdier audiences. “If people get louder we’re going to get louder. Partly, we’re reacting to how larger venues often are and you get that feeling that people want to rock and dance. I do still feel like the trio is the money spot for us. I can see why certain bands add band members as they grow in popularity because the venues get bigger and it feels like you need to fill that space. I’m trying to stay conscious of what feels right to get our songs across.”
With regards to the opening act—Kentucky-based cello singer-songwriter and activist Ben Sollee—Wood commented, “I’m a huge fan and love what he can do as a solo guy, really impressive, really musical and soulful.”
Being from Kentucky myself and having mutual friends with Sollee, I’ve kept up with his career from nearly the beginning. Playing cello and singing as a solo Americana act is not common for obvious reasons but then again, Sollee is not a regular dude. He often tours via bicycle, has devoted a tremendous amount of energy to raising awareness about the practice of mountain top removal strip mining in central Appalachia, and his meticulous arrangements are as elusive as Chris Thile or Abigail Washburn (whom he toured with as The Sparrow Quartet). Sollee will be accompanied by phenomenal percussionist Jordan Ellis. The duo released the spontaneous-sounding Infowars earlier this year. The Wood Brothers with Ben Sollee, 7 p.m. Tuesday at Center Theater. $51-$61. JHCenterForTheArts.org, 733-4900.
Winter Bash for Search & Rescue
There’s no better way to get into the winter mindset than a benefit for Teton County Search and Rescue (TCSAR). Darrell Miller’s ski flic Falling Forward, Teton Gravity Research’s Mind the Addiction, a raffle to benefit TCSAR, the release of Roadhouse Brewing’s Loose Boot IPA (a dollar from each beer sale also benefits TCSAR), and a perfect pairing of snow-inspired music from the Chanman-led Tram Jam band are all on tap. Let it snow! Winter Bash, 6:30 p.m. Friday at Q Roadhouse & Brewing. Music at 9 p.m. 739-0700.
Show Picks for the Week…
FRI: Winter Bash/Search and Rescue Benefit with Tram Jam (Q Roadhouse & Brewing), Cory Mon (Trap Bar), Aaron Kamm & the One Drops (Town Square Tavern)
SAT: Laney Lou & Bird Dogs (Trap Bar), Michelle Moonshine (Silver Dollar), WYOBASS (Town Square Tavern)
SUN: Stagecoach Band (Stagecoach)
MON: Jackson Hole Hootenanny (Dornan’s)
TUES: The Wood Brothers with Ben Sollee (Center Theater)
Aaron Davis is a singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, recording engineer, member of Screen Door Porch and Boondocks, founder/host of Songwriter’s Alley, and co-founder of The WYOmericana Caravan.