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Bringin' the Wood.

Byline: Serena Markstrom The Register-Guard

When Oliver Wood listed some of the voices - Ray Charles, Levon Helms, Aretha Franklin, Lowell George, Stevie Wonder - most influential to him, none are, or were, singers who sound much like him. The closest from his list would be Van Morrison.

But one thing Wood has in common with all? Soulfulness.

"There is a real intangible thing about all those people that strikes me," Wood said by phone. "It's moving somehow. You can't really put your finger on it, but it just feels good to hear it."

What he said about his favorite singers pretty much sums up the American roots band he formed in 2005 with his brother, bassist and singer Chris Wood.

The Wood Brothers were in Eugene almost exactly a year ago, and if the packed house at the WOW Hall was any indication, people here have taken note that there is something special about this family band.

With guitar, bass and drums, nothing stands out as being unusual instrumentally. All three band members, including drummer Jano Rix, sing, and the songwriting style blends all sorts of American traditions, from blues to jazz to funk to gospel to country.

All of that is not unusual on the roots scene. It's a subjective matter of taste, but the Wood Brothers seem to have that intangible element, greater than the sum of its parts.

A beautiful combination of sound

Chris Wood burnished his instrumental virtuosity playing with the jazz group Medeski, Martin and Wood, whose popularity here no doubt contributed to folks hearing about his sibling act.

There is something so listenable about the combination of that tasteful and skilled bass blending with the reedy voice and stylized but simple guitar player of his older brother.

Where Medeski, Martin & Wood might have lost people with its forays into the avant-garde, the Wood Brothers invite you in with a down-home wave. They may have the chops to pull off something more complicated, but they choose to perform in ways that serve the song over their own egos or any desire to show off.

Rix was added to the mix a couple of years ago, partly so the band could play to increasingly large crowds of as many as 20,000 fans, such as when they've opened for Zac Brown Band of Atlanta.

Writing with a drummer in mind has helped the band expand from intimate, subtle, folk-oriented numbers to funky rockers such as "Shoofly Pie." The song is built for live performance and it shifts a crowd's energy upward.

Growing up in Colorado, the brothers played a lot of music together. But when Oliver settled in Atlanta and Chris in New York, they did not see as much of each other as they would have liked.

But after 15 years pursuing other projects, their skills and influences had deepened to the point where they found something new all together - that intangible Wood Brothers sound.

Music as way for brothers to bond

Oliver Wood said when they got together they didn't have any big ambitions for where the project would go. But they thought collaborating musically would be good for the relationship.

"For us, it was a cool way to bond at first," he said. "It ended up we had all this great chemistry left over from being kids."

The band's latest release, "Smoke Ring Halo," was the No. 1 most-added album on Americana radio for the week of Jan. 10, a news release says. And several reviewers have pointed out they applaud the band's more exploratory direction.

They recorded "Halo" on Southern Ground, the label run by Oliver Wood's friend, Zac Brown. Brown is a huge star in country music right now, with two songs on the Billboard top 20. And apparently, he has some say over who opens for him on tour.

"He's a fan of the Wood Brothers' music, and he was even before he had a label," Wood said of Brown. "What's cool about him is he really is a lover of all kinds of music.

"He wants, in Atlanta, there to be an outlet for all his favorite music."

"Halo" is the first Wood Brothers release that features only original music, although the first two albums didn't have many covers: a couple of traditionals and the Bob Dylan-penned "Buckets of Rain."

A fun and satisfying collaboration

The songwriting credit reads "Wood, Wood" on all compositions on "Smoke Ring Halo," with the brother who wrote the lyrics singing lead. Oliver sings most of them, but increasingly, Chris is writing lyrics, too.

"It's much more fun to collaborate and it's just more satisfying," Oliver Wood said. "When you go out and play different songs for people and you have to play something every night, it's nice if everyone involved has something at stake."

The opening act, Sarah and Christian Dugas, plays old-school soul, rock and roots. Christian Dugas was the drummer last time the Wood Brothers played the WOW Hall.

Call Serena Markstrom at 541-338-2371 or e-mail her at


The Wood Brothers

With: Sarah and Christian Dugas

When: 8 p.m. Thursday

Where: WOW Hall, 291 W. Eighth Ave.

Tickets: $17, $15 advance

Seating: First-come, first-served
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Title Annotation:Ticket
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Jan 27, 2012
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