The Wood Brothers at The Trobadour
Photo by Joshua Frances
Oliver Wood’s choice of footwear is no rock-and-roll affectation. Consider his work boots- faded brown and laced-up- as required gear for the Wood Brothers’ singer/guitarist who, along with sibling Chris on bass and multi-instrumentalist Jano Rix, dutifully carries the trio’s brand of dusty Americana roots, blues, and folk from town to town. On the second of a two-night, sold-out stand at the famous Troubadour, the three delivered one of the band’s finest and most rewarding performances yet.
Winter visits to the Los Angeles area have become a yearly occurrence for the group, having played across town at the El Rey in two previous stops. Moving to the cozy compactor that is the Troubadour stretched the Brothers stay to two nights, and switched them away from a theater and its relatively settled dimensions to a club where wedged-in fans often sit on the edges of the stage. It can be daunting for some not ready to get that friendly that quickly. For the Wood Brothers, it was just another chance to connect with their loyal legions.
Entering to piped-in music from the Rocky soundtrack, the trio started gently, working acoustically as Oliver sang of sunshine on his backdoor someday. The multi-instrumental talents of Chris and Rix radiated early, with Rix, on “Two Places,” drumming with his left hand and playing keyboards with his right, and Chris blowing harmonica while keeping time on upright bass during “Keep Me Around.” Oliver wished the rowdy bunch a happy Mardi Gras and, in that spirit, invited a sing-along on “I Got Loaded,” recalling the rendition on the band’s current Live at the Barn release.
Following “Smoke Ring Halo,” the three turned it up higher, with Oliver picking up his electric guitar for a grinding “Tried and Tempted,” and holding the groove with Rix as Chris and his rubber-legs dancing highlighted “Snake Eyes.” As an offering to a fractured country, the Brothers dipped into “American Heartache,” one of a few implied references to the current political climate; the other coming as Chris “introduced” the band’s microphone (Big Mic) as a time machine back to a day before Trump and Clinton- to a boisterous applause- before a lovely reading of “The Muse.”
They welcomed openers The Shook Twins and mandolinist Niko Slice for a Big Mic gather-round on a gospel-soaked take on Sister Rosetta Tharpe’s “Up Above My Head,” then plugged back in for a crunchy “Wastin’ My Mind.” Oliver took a moment to talk about the new record, telling of its recording at Levon Helm’s Woodstock studio, before dedicating, as he does on the album, the rambling “Postcards from Hell,” to the late Band drummer. A rocking “Singin’ to Strangers” and sifting, shifting funk of “Honey Jar” closed the set.
Oliver humbly stepped back, letting the capacity crowd have the honors of singing the chorus of first encore “Luckiest Man.” Then, the trio let it fly for a final “One More Day,” with Chris plucking out the groove, then dancing into the shadows, Oliver whining on slide, and Rix rumbling on drums and tickling the keys, as if their over-two hours of work were being compressed, then turned loose in final burst that left no body unmoved, no soul unsatisfied. This is why Oliver Wood wears those boots.