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The Wood Brothers return with new textures to add to their Kingdom

January 20, 2020

Some music wraps around the soul like a warm summer breeze blowing through a sweet meadow full of wildflowers fresh after a summer thunderstorm. The Wood Brothers’ new album Kingdom in My Mind on Honey Jar/Thirty Tigers feels like that; like a transcendent experience of life in eleven masterpieces. The seventh studio album from this outfit challenges fellow artists to fully experiment with limitless creation. (Yeah, I am a fan. That much is obvious.)

The follow-up to Live at the Fillmore journeys back to the heart of sweet sounds for this Nashville-based band. Chris and Oliver Wood (with honorary third brother Jano Rix) are known for splitting time between Arkansas and life on the road. Both are fertile ground for fresh ideas that germinated into themes coloring the fields of these harmony-filled kingdoms. The state, with its palpable essence, has been infused into each note, lyrical delivery with soaring landscapes held on each chorus. Yet, it’s recording over free jam-based sessions that lend a dream-like landscape to the material, more than the time, place, or studio. The work is cohesive like a dream that drifts, with sonic separation resonating each note to the fullest. 

Lush with imagery, “Alabaster” opens the record with a slick jazz-blues haunting; the essence of each lyric offers harsh realities as a beginning to this different kind of trip. Multi-instrumentalist Rix shines on the piano, with an upright bass blues-club groove setting the stage. Drifting into the dream fully with “Little Bit Sweet” and its rich three-part harmonies. In my mind, “Jitterbug Love” lives in films like Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom, as childhood innocence oozes from each phrase. Hope and angst seem to partner well in this folk dance, with an authentic ache in each note.

“Cry Over Nothing” was one of the early singles; it’s full of bravado, daring the chaos in our world to defy reality. Despite lyrical daring, this is one of the less musically daring tracks of the album. Instead, it’s a resting place. Diving into the deeper waters of the dream, “Don’t Think About My Death” is one of the standouts. Raw, rapid-fire, whistling-in-the-dark lyricism relays a nightmare halfway through an album where the sequencing is almost another track. The dream story being told in this track, colored with shredding electric guitar, runs the gears back to rock–leaving folkies to catch a breath. “Little Bit Broken” is kind of like a group hug, maybe after the psychotic break? It’s pretty hard to get through life without any baggage; the trick is to hang with folks whose baggage all matches. 

This record admits that we all have a devilish side, in “The One I Love.” Shifting into really abstract work, “Little Blue” shouts with conceptual imagery, packed with a funky backbeat. The abundant instrumentation could have caused the song to seem overdone, but restraint was shown in the mix. No element was overpowering despite the large amount of things going on, mirroring a cacophony of Earth. Has a remix of this with lasers been requested for festivals yet? 

Strutting into the end of the album, “Dream’s A Dream” and its mixture of tempos highlight lyrical messaging, punctuating each clear spectre of Wood’s rap with space between the notes. The word in itself is an elusive feeling, but the soaring vocal wrapped around piano and harmonica of “Satisfied” may come close to the meaning of the word. Rich bass and piano evoke landscapes, of memories, of painting a picture set to song. There is no fear of falling at the end of this dream, just fresh and sweet expectation. 

This album adds new textures to The Wood Brothers’ sonic mix. The pre-existing kingdom of fandom in my mind has blended beautifully with The Wood Brothers’ new sonic magic. I am good with that. Thank you, Chris and Oliver Wood (along with your other brother Jano) for sharing Kingdom in My Mind. —Lisa Whealy

Check your local dates – ticket availability may have changed since publication:

1/29 – Baltimore, MD – Ram’s Head Live ^

1/30 – New York, NY – Webster Hall ^

1/31 – New York, NY – Webster Hall ^

2/1 – Philadelphia, PA – The Fillmore ^

2/3 – Toronto, Canada – Mod Club Theatre ^

2/5 – Rochester, NY – Kodak Center ^

2/6 – Burlington, VT – Flynn Center for the Performing Arts ^

2/7 – New Haven, CT – College Street Music Hall ^

2/8 – Albany, NY – Palace Theatre ^

2/9 – State College, PA – The State Theatre ^

2/11 – McKees Rocks, PA – Roxian Theatre ^

2/12 – Richmond, VA – The National ^

2/13 – Chattanooga, TN – Walker Theatre ^

2/14 – Nashville, TN – The Ryman ^

2/27 – 3/1 – Punta Cana, DR – Avett Brothers at the Beach (Sold Out)

3/4 – Phoenix, AZ – The Crescent Ballroom *

3/5 – Los Angeles, CA – The Regent *

3/6 – Santa Barbara, CA – Campbell Hall *

3/7 – Oakland, CA – Fox Theater *

3/8 – Eureka, CA – Arkley Center for the Performing Arts *

3/10 – Eugene, OR – McDonald Theater *

3/11 – Kirkland, WA – Kirkland Performance Center *

3/12 – Portland, OR – Crystal Ballroom *

3/13 – Vancouver, BC – Imperial *

4/2 – Knoxville, TN – Bijou Theatre

4/3 – Knoxville, TN – Bijou Theatre

4/4 – Chicago, IL – Riviera Theatre

4/5 – Milwaukee, WI – Pabst Theatre

4/7 – Detroit, MI – Majestic Theatre

4/8 – Columbus, OH – Southern Theatre

4/9 – Asheville, NC – The Orange Peel

4/10 – Asheville, NC – The Orange Peel

4/11 – Asheville, NC – The Orange Peel

5/22 – Chillicothe, IL – Summer Camp Music Festival

6/27 – Laytonville, CA – Black Oak Ranch

^ w/ Kat Wright

* w/ Birds of Chicago

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Stephen Carradini and Lisa Whealy write reviews of instrumental, folk, and singer/songwriter music. We write about those trying to make the next step in their careers and established artists.

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