The sobering and topical “River Takes the Town” opens The Wood Brothers’ sixth studio album as Chris Wood’s bass and Oliver Wood’s acoustic guitar naturally flow into the track. Written prior to the devastation that swept the nation this past summer, the tune accurately describes the pain and terror that comes with overwhelming disasters whether widespread or personal. Artful lyrics with a smooth and crisp tone flood the song with emotion as Jano Rix adds the perfect amount of percussion and backup vocals. I would argue the most powerful opening track on any Wood Brother’s album.
The second piece in the collection introduces Americana funk as the exclusive genre in “Happiness Jones.” Chris introduces a silky bass line that invites the listener to kick their shoes off and dance on the grass. The muffled vocal effect along with the well-placed guitar solo is sure to start a sing-along during live performances. Rix offers a swirling organ that adds that extra funkified soul fans have come to expect from the Wood Brothers and the turn of phrase lyrics recognize the cross-contamination of happiness and lesson-learning. Similar to “Sing About It” on 2013’s The Muse, Oliver describes the power that singing can have on the mind and spirit during hard times. A fresh tune rooted in Oliver’s talented and unique writing ability awards “Happiness Jones” a big smile and two thumbs way up.
After the haunting and supernatural qualities of “Strange As It Seems,” the trio enters the realm of country twang with “Sky High.” Not to be confused with the “sky high with chicken skin” lyrics from Smoke Ring Halo’s “Stumble In,” or the 2012 live release with the same name, this “Sky High” is a sexy and seductive ditty just begging for an AMC television drama series to use it as the credit track. Oliver’s chilling slide guitar sings along with the band and would echo nicely off the walls of any Nashville dive-bar where the track was appropriately written. More than halfway through the album, Oliver hands over lead vocal duties to his little brother Chris for “Seasick Emotion.” Soaked in the sentiment of 2016’s election, Chris uses the giant body of water to describe his inner fears and confusions while Oliver and Jano blow a slow wind into the sonic sails. Oliver’s one and only voice has defined The Wood Brothers’ sound for so long that hearing Chris sing displays a band freer and more supportive of each other than ever.
What is a Wood Brothers album without alcohol slipping its way into the lyrics? “Sparkling Wine” serves as the playful and boozy party track in One Drop of Truth before the ultra-bluesy title song hints at a dissatisfaction with the lies and deceptions of our current political climate. In a world of “fake news” and leaders that have billions and billions of the “best words,” Chris sings, “Give me one drop of truth I cannot deny.” A strong and forceful message is only outshined by Oliver’s powerful and sophisticated chops. “Can’t Look Away” is perfectly segued out of “One Drop of Truth” and the listener can once again image the title being somehow politically fueled. Oliver returns to lead and hovers on the spoken word side of the fence as he is narrating different scenes that appear to be acted out on a stage. A rich and powerful backing bass by Chris gives this inventive new track legs to shift gears throughout. They pour the final drops of creativity into the closing number before the 42-minute eclectic collection of originals comes to an end.
With half a dozen studio albums under their belt, The Wood Brothers have once again proved themselves as outlaws of the mainstream corporate music industry while being fully capable of its praise. The trio’s first five albums seem to tell a story based around the album title, while One Drop of Truth feels more like a portfolio of themes, sounds and spaces. The eagerness to grow, the commitment to change and confidence to experiment with truth in this album is exactly what this country needs. God Bless America and God bless the Wood Brothers!
The Wood Brothers are currently on tour in support of One Drop of Truth, catch them at a theater near you!
Key Tracks: River Takes the Town, Happiness Jones, Can’t Look Away