Loaded is the second album from brothers Chris and Oliver Wood. The follow-up to the critically acclaimed Ways Not To Lose, the 12 tracks on Loadedhighlight the duo’s talents for clever songwriting and unique vocal expression. They are also well supported by special guests, like Frazie Ford from the Be Good Tanyas, and are masterfully produced by John Medeski , Chris Wood’s erstwhile band mate in the jazz trio Medeski Martin and Wood. Medeski even adds some keyboard work and Billy Wood some percussion in key points of the album. Overall it is well-balanced by a collection of influences, from folk and jazz to soul and blues.
Songs like “Lovin’ Arms,” “Walk Away,” and “Fall Too Fast,” reveal a tender, sentimental and romantic side to the duo’s songwriting inspiration. Equally effective is the approach they take to gospel influenced songs “Pray Enough” and the traditional “Make Me Down a Pallet On Your Floor.” “Postcards From Hell” and “Twisted” are fun and frivolous, highlighting the strong vocal delivery of Oliver Wood, his enunciation and tone quite reminiscent of Paul Simon.
The Wood Brothers picked two great covers, and they appear back-to-back in the latter half of the on the album. It’s hard to go wrong covering legends like Jimi Hendrix and Bob Dylan, but their successful translations of “Angel” and “Buckets of Rain” are particularly noteworthy. The covers fit well with the rest of the songs on the album and complement the Woods’ original compositions well; “Angel” with an almost reggae interpretation, and “Buckets of Rain” a very soft and gentle expression.
Loaded is an album that should appeal to a wide variety of music fans and tastes. Chris and Oliver Wood bring both a consistency of performance and diversity of material to a very interesting listen from start to finish. The support from their special guests and producer adds just the right amount of extra flavor without changing the overall direction or impact of the duo’s work. At the end of the day, Loaded is the kind of album that would do justice to a convertible ride through the country on a sunny Sunday afternoon.
Loaded is out now on Blue Note.