The cover of The Wood Brothers’ 2015 album Paradise showed a donkey with a helmet-mounted carrot dangling over its head—the thing we all want but can never quite reach. The cover of the Americana trio’s new album, One Drop of Truth, shows a woman sinking into water, leaving her breath in bubbles as she falls—the “drop” you asked for that turned out to be a deluge.
The harmonies of hope and dread run through One Drop of Truth, the sixth album by The Wood Brothers—ex-King Johnson guitarist Oliver Wood; his bassist brother Chris Wood of Medeski, Martin & Wood; and multi-instrumentalist Jano Rix. Small drops become big twisters and batter beleaguered towns; levees strain with the swell; nerves fray and nature creeps up on manicured digital happiness. “All of my wisdom,” sings Oliver Wood on “Happiness Jones,” “came from all the toughest days / I never learned a thing bein’ happy.”
Album opener “River Takes the Town” was inspired by actual weather, but the suspense in the lyrics echoes the tension that’s been gripping the U.S. every day for a couple of years now. “I was writing literally at first, about how scary it must be when people lose power and communication with those they love,” said Oliver. “But then the lyrics became a metaphor for something more interpersonal. And by the end of this summer, it seemed to take on new meaning yet again.” If bliss is to be questioned, though, freedom certainly isn’t, and The Wood Brothers’ music has rarely seemed freer. One Drop of Truth was self-produced and recorded, but the trio took their time, spreading the sessions out over much of 2017 and enlisting four different mixing engineers to come up with divergent sounds and flavors. “River Takes the Town,” with its delicate acoustic blues intro and swelling gospel crescendo, immediately delivers the Woods’ unique panoramic patchwork of folk, jazz, country and rock music.
“It’s nice to go back to the roots for just a minute and hear a stripped down moment before all the bigger sounds hit,” said Oliver. “We also liked this song to introduce the album since the subject matter has current relevance—although written prior, we happened to record it the day after Houston was flooded by Hurricane Harvey.”
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