Late in the summer of 2018, The Wood Brothers were putting the final touches on their new workshop, The Studio Nashville. After it was fully wired for sound, they decided to break in this new space by testing the energy, atmosphere and sound of each room. These initial jam sessions would lay the framework for Kingdom In My Mind when the band listened back to their performances and realized that there was something special to the recordings. It wasn’t until they took these newly recorded improvisations and began to construct verses and choruses that their creative prowess took a new leap.
While this may be a new path for the band, the members are no stranger to experimentation. The Wood Brothers came to be after Oliver Wood sat in with his brother Chris’ band, Medeski, Martin and Wood, in the early 2000’s and Jano Rix may be best known for creating the ‘shuitar’ – an acoustic guitar with a twist of percussion. In the past, the band would write large batches of songs and try to capture them all at once, but their new studio offered them so much more. “We weren’t performing songs,” explains Oliver. “We were just improvising and letting the music dictate everything. Normally when you’re recording, you’re thinking about your parts and your performances, but with these sessions, we were just reacting to each other and having fun in the moment.”
The Wood Brothers’ 7th album starts with “Alabaster,” a gem that could easily be mistaken for a classic MMW song if it weren’t for Oliver’s jazzy vocals over the track. The funky keys and effervescent bass really highlight the energy of their new space . “Little Bit Sweet” has the honor of featuring the first notes recorded in their studio, which was the impetus for Kingdom In My Mind. This track features beautiful harmonies that rise with the bouncy beat that Jano lays down. In “Jitterbug Love,” Chris Wood’s voice is perfect for this little ditty as Oliver slides up and down his acoustic guitar. It’s near impossible to listen to this track without tapping your feet and singing along to the chorus: “I’m crazy for you. I’m crazy for you!”
“Cry Over Nothing” is the only song that was developed and composed outside of the new studio, but it invokes the spirit of The Band, especially as Rix plays his soaring organ while simultaneously keeping beat. The most “rocking” song of the album comes in the form of “Don’t Think About My Death.” This track is a mesmerizing mix of dirty electric guitar and Rix’s ever-present but simplistic percussion. Continuing the jump between genres are “Little Bit Broken,” which combines funky tones with a pure gospel feeling that will undoubtedly speak to everyone who listens, and “The One I Love,” a Zydeco track that is sure to get folks on their feet at any upcoming Wood Brothers performance.
“Little Blue” continues this gem of an album with its funky, bluesy tones while “A Dream’s A Dream” takes things in a filthy direction. And I mean that in the best way possible. This is my favorite track on the album and it’s definitely the one I replayed the most this past week. “Satisfied” is the last full track on the album and Oliver’s vocals paint a tale of optimism and hope while Chris’ harmonica hauntingly floats over Jano’s solid beat. This powerful song really sums up the themes and feelings that are highlighted throughout this beautiful album. No album is complete without a proper reprise and this is no exception as” Little Blue (Reprise)” is a delightful cherry on top of this beautiful cake of an album.
The Wood Brothers will be in NYC on January 30 and 31, Rochester on February 5 and Albany on February 8.
Key Tracks: A Dream’s A Dream, Alabaster, Jitterbug Love
The album can be ordered and more information on tour dates is available at the band’s website.