Souther Ground Records
Oliver and Chris Wood’s fourth full length—and second for Zac Brown’s Southern Ground label—doesn’t till much new ground. But since the brothers’ eclectic swath of influences includes bassist Chris’ extensive jazz/funk work with longtime bandmates Medeski and Martin, as well as Oliver’s blues, soul and folk roots from his years fronting Atlanta’s King Johnson, there’s plenty of room to craft melodic, rootsy songs within a sound that remains unique. Supplement all that with a strong gospel element and nods to rock, pop and country, and you’ve got an intoxicating and often playful mix that revels in its sultry Southern vibes.
The siblings couldn’t have found a more sympathetic producer than Buddy Miller who brings his similarly expansive background to the table. He adds occasional horns, harmonica and subtle Latin tinges, especially noticeable in a wonderfully slowed down, bluesy version of the swamp/R&B classic “I Got Loaded.” Things get frisky on the funked up “Honey Jar” with the suggestive line “there’s honey drippin’ off of your spoon” highlighted by female backing vocals and frantic guitar and harmonica accompaniment. Love ballad “Sweet Maria” shows a softer side with Chris bowing his bass as accordion and piano bringing additional texture. Miller knows when to keep things simple, too, as evidenced by the stripped down “Keep Me Around,” a typical slice of spicy Wood Brothers whimsy.
Over the years, Oliver’s everyman voice has matured into a poignant and distinctive instrument. Yet on the few songs where his brother sings lead, such as the mid-tempo “Losin’,” Chris acquits himself nicely with a less idiosyncratic if delightfully low-key
The Muse is another quality Wood Brothers album that revels in honest, unpretentious music as down to earth and sincere as the personalities of the musicians.
Photo by Southern Reel