The Wood Brothers insist that their latest release is their purest. That might be true in terms of brotherly togetherness, but the sound is still same eclectic mix of funk, country, roots rock, and blues that brother Oliver has been dishing up since his King Johnson days. The horns are gone, but the same loose-limbed rattle and roll still marches their music along to a different drummer.
“Happiness Jones” is pure King Johnson, a twitchy, funky parade vehicle fit for struttin' in the street or celebrating yourself by climbing the walls at home, janglefest bluesabilly that sputters along gloriously with arrhythmic abandon.
“Your head is so high when you got the right shoes,” Oliver proclaims on Sky High, underscoring his proclamation with a kazoo chorus. He's gotten sky high before on “Stumbled In” from 2011's Smoke Ring Halo: “You get me sky high with chicken skin,” he moaned over a psychedelic jug band backing. But this “Sky High” is a clanky carnival ride set on a swampy backlot juke joint with nasty slide guitar drippin' down the walls.
Utilizing several studios in Nashville and four engineers, the band's sixth studio album is all over the place thematically but still remains firmly anchored in the Woods countryfunkbloozey backyard.
Brother Chris gets to vocalize on “Seasick Emotion,” a song he wrote during an actual hurricane that deals more with the hurricane in his head brought on by the state of the union at election time: “How can I know where to go / When everything that I know / Is already lost in the wind.”
“Thought it was love but it was only a drug,” Oliver reveals on “Sparklin' Wine,” a funky country reggae with an electric frog croakin' intro. “I heard the faint voice of reason,” Wood says as the backwoods reggae cranks funkily along behind, “then it faded away/ so I raised my glass to her cheek/and caught the tears she made.” Both brothers get in some nasty low-down licks stitching together a melody that borrows snatches from Lou Reed's “Take A Walk On The Wild Side” and Stevie Wonder's “Boogie On Reggae Woman” for the makins of a rowdy down-home dance party.
Once again, the Woods, along with considerable help from Jano Rix on drums, shuitar, keys and vocals, pull off a musical mix that sounds like effortless family style collaboration. It's a habit we hope they never get tired of.