With backgrounds in experimental jazz, blues, R&B and country, free-wheeling Americana trio the Wood Brothers can train their musical focus in any number of directions. For Paradise, a new album due out October 2nd, they take aim at a rock-based sound that hits both the heart and head.
The album is full of firsts for the band, which is surprising given their long musical histories. Bassist Chris Wood was one-third of the new-school jazz trio Medeski, Martin & Wood, while singer-guitarist (and older brother) Oliver led a perpetually touring roots music band called King Johnson. The siblings have released eight titles in all since forming their own group, but Paradise still finds them stepping into unknown territory.
For starters, it's the first time they've recorded at the Black Keys' co-founder Dan Auerbach's Easy Eye Studio, a five-minute drive from Zac Brown’s Southern Ground complex, where they laid down their previous set, The Muse. It's also the first time Chris has used an electric bass on a Wood Brothers recording, not to mention the first time they’ve written songs face-to-face in the same room. Before recently settling in Nashville, the two Wood siblings lived in different cities for decades.
It all adds up to a more cohesive set of tunes, although the guys remain uninterested in adhering to any type of genre boundary. Rolling Stone Country is streaming the premiere of one of those tracks — the funky, thoughtful "American Heartache" — below.
With an active, melody-driven bass line, strutting drums and embellishments of harmonica throughout, the song is "typical Wood Brothers" in that it's completely atypical. At times soaring with unbounded joy and other times feeling stuck in place, Oliver's vocals describe what the brothers see as the study in contrast that is the American experiment — in short, that American heartache and the American dream are one and the same.
"The American dream is alive and well, but comes with side effects," the singer says. "Our culture cultivates the feeling that you can never have enough. It's a tragic luxury and a modern version of desire that was invented here along with blues, jazz, rock & roll, football, 24-hour news and 'free' market capitalism. The song is a bit tongue-in-cheek, but pathetically true."
The Wood Brothers will appear during the Americana Music Festival in Nashville this weekend, then continue their fall/winter tour with dates scheduled across the Northeast, Midwest and southern U.S. In the meantime, enjoy the exclusive premiere of "American Heartache."