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Ray Routhier

Portland Press Herald staff writer Ray Routhier will try anything. Once. During 20 years at the Press Herald he’s been equally attracted to stories that are unusually quirky and seemingly mundane. He’s taken rides on garbage trucks, sought out the mother of two rock stars, dug clams, raked blueberries, and spent time with the family of bedridden man who finds strength in music. Nothing too dangerous mind you, just adventurous enough to find the stories of real Mainers doing real cool things.

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Posted: January 30, 2018

As sixth album drops, The Wood Brothers play the State

Written by: Ray Routhier

The Wood Brothers will bring their blend of folk, blues and Americana music to the State Theatre in Portland Friday.

Photo by Alysse Gafkjen

Oliver Wood thinks it’s probably a good thing that he and his younger brother, Chris, had their own musical careers and successes before teaming up as the Wood Brothers more than a decade ago.

“We both had a chance to grow up and develop, musically, without carrying the baggage of sibling rivalry or bitterness,” said Oliver Wood, 52. “Then at some point we realized, hey, we’re both professional musicians and maybe we should do something together. We had spent a lot of years apart, and putting the band together was a way to reconnect as brothers.”

The Wood Brothers, including third member Jano Rix, have become known for an eclectic Americana style that melds blues, folk and funk. Their sixth album, “One Drop of Truth,” is scheduled to be released Friday, the same day they’re slated to play a show at Portland’s State Theatre.

The album was a departure for the band, in terms of when and how it was recorded, Oliver Wood said from his home in Nashville. Usually the band would write songs over the course of a year or so, then record them all together in two or three weeks.

But this time they recorded a song or two at a time, soon after they were written. This way the band was able to give a lot more attention and focus to each song as they were recording it.

“It’s like when you have a lot of kids, it’s easier to deal with them one at a time,” said Wood. “It was more fun for us to get to work on one song at time.”

One of the songs attracting a lot of attention from the new album is “Happiness Jones,” a funky blues tune about the modern phenomenon of being addicted to happiness: “All of my wisdom came from all the toughest days / I never learned a thing bein’ happy.”

“I wrote the song after reading an article about how modern day people are addicted to happiness, how people feel like if they’re not happy all the time something is wrong,” said Wood, who sings the tune. “But there’s a value to unhappiness. It’s generally during unhappy times that you grow and make positive transformations.”

The video for the song shows Wood singing stone-faced at a microphone while his brother, Chris, dances crazily in a sparse basement, the basement of the studio where the song was recorded.

The brothers Wood are four years apart and grew up in Boulder, Colorado. Their father, Bill Wood, was a biologist and musician. He played guitar in bands and folk groups in the 1950s but never made music his career. He continued to play while his sons were growing up and shared his eclectic record collection with them, which ranged from early 20th-century blues and country to contemporary folk and rock.

“We listened to Jimmy Reed and Lightnin’ Hopkins but also Bob Dylan and the Beatles,” Wood said.

Oliver Wood took up guitar and gravitated to blues. He moved to Atlanta as an adult and played in the band of blues/rocker Tinsley Ellis, before founding his own blues/funk/country band, King Johnson. Chris Wood took up the bass and happened to have a teacher who was big on jazz. He eventually ended up in New York City and helped form the popular jazz group Medeski, Martin & Wood.

Since teaming as the Wood Brothers, their music has been classified as blues/folk or country, and some of their albums have placed high on country records charts. But their music reflects all the various styles both have played over they years, including jazz and funk.

“We were pretty close growing up, so it was a little strange we went different ways musically,” Wood said. “So this has been fun to collaborate and work off that chemistry, that as brothers, we’ve always had.”

The Wood Brothers

WHEN: 8 p.m. Friday
WHERE: State Theatre, 609 Congress St., Portland
HOW MUCH: $25 in advance; $30 day of the show

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