The Wood Brothers share a musical identity, while giving a nod to their pasts | Music | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

The Wood Brothers share a musical identity, while giving a nod to their pasts

Watching their father play guitar encouraged brothers Oliver and Chris Wood to take up music, though it'd be years before they'd reap that harvest together. Their father, a microbiologist, played folk guitar in New England during the late '50s, even playing on a Joan Baez album. In the mid-'90s, Oliver moved to Atlanta to start blues outfit King Johnson, while Chris dropped out of the New England Conservatory of Music, moved to New York, and helped form roots-jazz outfit Medeski, Martin & Wood.

The brothers continued on separate trajectories until King Johnson opened for MMW and Oliver sat in on a few songs. Bassist Chris was struck by their similar styles and influences, saying it was like looking in a mirror. Several years later they cut demos during a family holiday get-together, giving birth to the Wood Brothers.

They've since released three albums, steadily creating an identity apart from their prior associations. The brothers' sound is deeply informed by Oliver's earlier band -- a shuffling, gritty folk-blues, navigating a ragged soul-ache reminiscent of The Band. Chris harmonizes nicely with Oliver's raspy, woozy amble, while providing a supple, jazz-tinged backbone. On their latest EP, Up Above My Head, the brothers open up the sound, with catchy songs that range from the swinging gospel title track to the pretty Americana rag, "Liza Jane," and their cocktail take on The Beatles' "Fixing a Hole."


The Wood Brothers with Clay Cook. 9 p.m. Thu., Dec. 9 (doors at 8 p.m.). Club Café, 56-58 S. 12th St., South Side. $15. 412-431-4950 or

click to enlarge Blood is thicker: The Wood Brothers
Blood is thicker: The Wood Brothers

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