The Wood Brothers comprises newcomer guitarist-singer Oliver Wood and his brother Chris, the intense and rambunctious bassist in funk-jazz modernists Medeski, Martin and Wood. These Woods are set on fire by dark alley blues, the sounds of New Orleans, raw Southern grooves, earnest voices and a contagious energy level.
Promoting their debut “Ways Not to Lose,” which Blue Note will release March 7, the Wood Brothers are the label’s latest attempt to extend its reach deep into the earthy singer-songwriter pool that it initially conquered with Norah Jones. Oliver Wood, who plays the sort of vintage guitars one would see in the hands of a swing musician in the ’40s and ’50s, possesses a vocal soulfulness that’s as much this group’s hook as his easily digestible Bayou rockers.
At the recently expanded Hotel Cafe, one of L.A.’s finest listening rooms, Chris Wood added vigorous bass playing to every tune, pounding rhythm and lead sections to a point of rapture at which time he beats the living daylights out of the instrument. He’s a more reserved presence on record; live, he certainly provides audio and visual distinction.
Act has a winner in its plaintive “Chocolate on My Tongue,” which starts in the mellow part of Canned Heat territory and evolves into a tune perfect for a Star 98.7 playlist. “Atlas,” a bouncing swing tune, is a fabulous head-bobber that Oliver invests with gospel shout and the two inject with impressive note sliding and slurring on bass and guitar. Concert benefited from an engaging jazzy take on the Beatles’ “Fixing a Hole.”
The Wood Brothers have two New York gigs booked: Feb. 9 at the Living Room and March 7 at Joe’s Pub.