The Sisters Folk Festival is always a sold-out musical extravaganza, but one aspect of the festival that sometimes gets overlooked is its Winter Concert Series. In January we have The Wood Brothers, in February it's Bumper Jacksons and the series concludes in March with Darlingside.
The Wood Brothers was a supergroup from inception, with Chris Wood bringing a massive following over from his work with the incomparable jazz group Medeski Martin & Wood, and Oliver Wood commanded a legion of respect from his work with blues legend Tinsley Ellis and his own band King Johnson.
As kids they were steeped in the blues work of Jimmy Reed and Lightnin' Hopkins, but Chris and Oliver weren't destined to make music together until much later. Oliver spent most of the intervening years focusing on blues. According to their website, Oliver says about the blues, "It still has the electricity of rock, but it's more primitive. It's plugged in and rockin', but it's more emotional. And the guitar sings like a voice."
Whereas Oliver focused more on blues and mostly toured the South, Chris headed to the New England Conservatory of Music to study jazz before eventually going on to help form Medeski Martin & Wood. After years of touring and multiple albums, the moment came when Oliver's King Johnson opened for Medeski Martin & Wood and Chris saw his brother play. "He sat in with us during our set," remembers Chris, "and it was a creepy experience, like watching myself. He had a lot of the same impulses I did. Part of it was influences, part of it was blood."
With Chris on upright bass, Oliver on guitar and the addition of multi-instrumentalist Jano Rix, The Wood Brothers band was born. Now with three live albums and six studio albums under their belt, The Wood Brothers are in no one's shadow anymore. Their sound has gradually evolved from a murder ballad, almost folk traditional sound where the songs are deceptively simple (with early albums like "Ways Not To Lose" and "Smoke Ring Halo") to a fuller sound on their newest records.
The band's latest release, "Paradise," is all over the spectrum, with deep country holler blues ("Never and Always"), good old-fashioned bar rock ("Singin' to Strangers), country pop ("Snake Eyes") and quiet, introspective folk ("Two Places"). No two songs sound alike or really even in the same genre and their live show promises to bring that unpredictability and excitement alive.
We still have quite a wait for the Sisters Folk Festival proper, but the Winter Concert Series isn't messing around. All three bands are hugely talented and deserve their own spotlight outside of the festival scene. The Wood Brothers are only going to grow in estimation over the next few years and now just might be the perfect time to catch them.
The Wood Brothers
Thursday, Jan. 28. 7pm
Sisters High School Auditorium, 1700 McKinney Butte Rd., Sisters