Press Release: On October 1st, The Wood Brothers will release their new album The Muse, on Zac Brown's Southern Ground Artists. Produced by country-music legend Buddy Miller, the album embodies a newfound musical bond between brothers Oliver and Chris Wood -- one cemented by two years on the road with a new full-time member, drummer Jano Rix.
Recorded at Southern Ground Studios in Nashville, The Muse mines The Wood Brothers' timeless influences -- Robert Johnson, Willie Nelson, Charles Mingus -- and showcases their high-lonesome harmonies, Oliver's gritty acoustic guitars, Chris's virtuosic standup bass, the warrior poet lyrics. New to this recording is the patented "shuitar," a beat-up acoustic guitar rigged with tuna cans and other noisemakers, which Jano uses as a percussive instrument.
The title track "The Muse" reveals Oliver's songwriting at its most tender and autobiographical to date, as he sings of his "finest work yet" -- his newborn child -- over classically bowed bass and delicate melodica. On "Honey Jar," Chris and Oliver double up on a bluesy jam-band groove and then hit the brakes for a slow-swinging, heavy-hitting chorus with backups by The McCrary Sisters, all recalling the secular gospel of The Black Crowes. "Wastin' My Mind" could pass for a lost track from "The Last Waltz," while "Neon Tombstone" drives home the brothers' now more deeply collaborative spirit, with verses written and sung by Oliver and Chris taking over for the chorus. Throughout, Oliver's endearingly offbeat vocals are more "gripping" (The New York Times) than ever, with Chris' and Jano's dialed-in harmonies providing rich, rustic texture.
While The Wood Brothers have always favored the production values of a purer time, they take their analog sensibility a step further with The Muse. Here Chris, Oliver and Jano often circled around a tree of microphones and simply played the songs, with even the lead vocals being recorded on the spot. The strategy was embraced by Miller, an award-winning producer, guitarist and solo artist who's performed and recorded with Alison Krauss and Robert Plant, Emmylou Harris, Steve Earle and Lucinda Williams. Nashville studio vet Mike Poole engineered the album, which was recorded to two-inch tape.
The Muse comes as a high-water mark for the band -- once a "side project," it's become so important to the brothers that both recently relocated to Nashville so they could work even more closely together. "It's taken years for us to really feel like we can collaborate," Oliver says, "and I think this is the pinnacle of it so far."