Preview One Drop Of Truth by The Wood Brothers.
One Drop Of Truth by The Wood Brothers
On their sixth album, One Drop of Truth, The Wood Brothers play truly cosmic American music, an earthy blend of folk, country, blues and rock that wrestles with the highs and lows of life.
The Wood Brothers wear their artistic ambitions lightly. This is simply good music. The album exemplifies the strength of a trio, providing sonic space for each instrument to shine. Chris Wood’s supple bass work is complemented by the creative drumming and percussion of Jano Rix, and Oliver Wood provides the right color on every song, never over-playing. At the same time, the band uses the freedom of the studio strategically to expand their sound—electric piano and Hammond B3 as well as an occasional swipe of feedback and random sound. The additions serve the song, heightening the drama of what they are playing and saying.
The brothers say that they didn’t approach the album with a theme, musically or lyrically, and that shows in the breadth of styles—from the unsettling folk-and-feedback calm of “Strange As It Seems” and the country rock melancholy of “The River Takes The Town” to the joyful pop stylings of “This Is It.” Still, a theme emerges as the lyrics return again and again to the relationship between extremes—up and down, black and white, good and bad, happy and sad. “Sky High,” a blues tune with a heavy beat and a haunting slide guitar lead, states it boldly:
There’s something about the bass below the melody.
There’s something about the bass.
There’s something about the lows tell the highs how to be.
Plenty of other tunes on the album dig into that idea. “Laughin’ or Crying,” a cabaret-style, minor-key blues song, reflects the album’s meditation on extremes in its title as well as its lyrics, which describe a woman who sees life in all its highs and lows and unlikely places. The title track, “One Drop of Truth,” is crammed with diametrically opposed extremes.
I’d rather die thirsty than drown in my tears
Crying and drinking; my heart full of fear
I’d rather die hungry than feasting on lies
Give me one drop of truth; one drop of truth I cannot deny
“Happiness Jones” makes the case that being happy may be a universal desire, but it’s not necessarily desirable. “All of my wisdom came from all the toughest days. I never learned a thing being happy,” Oliver Wood sings against a loose-limbed and funky beat reminiscent of The Meters and New Orleans R&B. The energy of the drumming and bass really stand out here, as do blasts from the Hammond B3 that accent the beat.
Another highlight, “Sparkling Wine” employs a skipping, reggae-style beat to mimic the effervescent nature of champagne while the lyrics use the metaphor of bubbly to talk about the ease with which we can confuse intoxicating obsession and real love. The music features a wah-wah enhanced electric piano and an electric guitar that play off each other throughout the song and share concise, tasteful solos before the last verse and chorus.
The final tune on the album, “Can’t Look Away,” offers vivid portraits of disturbing material found in abundance on the web and in social media—a local militia group, a cliche setting for a pornographic film and a young child attending a funeral for a member of the military. The chorus, once again, conveys the ways in which the extremes of emotion, motivation and fortune give meaning to life.
It’s a colorful sight
It’s got the dark and the light
It’s never just black and white
Or even gray
And you can’t look away
It bears noting that the singing is excellent throughout. Oliver Wood, who handles the lead vocals, has a distinctive voice, a somewhat nasally twang that cuts through the music. What’s more, he has good range and a very expressive style that adds additional layers of meaning to what he is singing about. And his bandmates deliver rich, harmony backup throughout the recording.
One Drop of Truth is compelling from the opening note to the last. It’s tempting to declare this as one of the top albums of the year, even though we are barely done with one month of 2018. One listen, and you will be thirsty for more