Evening Hosted by Andrew Cash
Opening performance by Chris Assaad
World Literacy Canada is a registered charitable organization based in Toronto with over 56 years of experience successfully delivering literacy and empowerment initiatives. World Literacy Canada promotes global citizenship and supports and delivers a wide range of community-based educational programs to women and children in Canada and South Asia.
Two brothers decide to form a band, adapting the blues, folk and other roots-music sounds they loved as kids into their own evocative sound and twining their voices in the sort of high-lonesome harmony blend for which sibling singers are often renowned. While that’s not a terribly unusual story, Oliver Wood (guitar, vocals) and Chris Wood (bass, vocals, harmonica) took a twisty path to their ultimate collaboration. Indeed, they pursued separate projects for some 15 years before joining forces.
Originally hailing from Boulder, Colorado, Chris and Oliver imbibed the heady tones and stories of American roots music – notably folk, blues, bluegrass and country – at the feet of their father, a molecular biologist with a passion for music and performing. Their mother, a poet, meanwhile, taught them a deep appreciation for storytelling and turn of phrase.
Their paths diverged following teenage explorations of blues, jazz, classic rock, bebop and roots music. Oliver founded his band, King Johnson, with his buddy Chris Long, layering R&B, funk, soul and country elements over their beloved blues influences. Chris formed the hugely influential, genre-busting, instrumental trio Medeski Martin & Wood. In 2004, the brothers seized the opportunity presented by a family reunion and recorded some material together. 2006 saw the release of their debut album, Ways Not to Lose, which was named top pick in folk by Amazon.com’s editors that year. “Modern folk and blues rarely sounds as inventive and colorful,” declared Amazon reviewers. The brothers’ sophomore release, Loaded (2008), was heralded as one of NPR’s “Overlooked 11.” Both albums were produced by Chris’ MMW bandmate, John Medeski.
In August, 2011, The Wood Brothers released their third full-length studio album, titled Smoke Ring Halo, on Zac Brown’s independent record label, Southern Ground Artists. Produced and engineered by Jim Scott (Johnny Cash, Tom Petty, Lucinda Williams), the brothers simmer, swing and soar, shifting moods and time signatures with aplomb. Their musical chemistry has never felt more profound. The Wood Brothers refine their rich, spacious sound on songs like the rousing opener, “Mary Anna”, the back-porch-funky “Shoofly Pie”, the waltz-time plaint “Pay Attention,” the elegiac title track, the gospel-inflected “Made it up the Mountain” and more.
And so the two brothers continued pursuing the musical adventure they’d begun in childhood. For although their paths diverged for many years, and they forged very different careers in disparate places, the Wood Brothers are never far from the musical currents that formed their musical impulses in the first place. It may be, in Chris’ formation, part influences and part blood. But it’s all magic.