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April 2006

The Wood Brothers
Ways Not to Lose
Blue Note Records

One Wood--singer-guitarist Oliver or bassist sibling Chris (of Medeski, Martin & Wood fame)--is good. Two Woods, teamed for their first full-length collaboration, are better. Serving up a dozen tracks of hell-and-back blues (kissed with a healthy dose of heavenly redemption), the Woods might better have called this kickass collection Pack Up Your Sins and Go to the Devil (But Remember There's Always an Angel or Two Close at Hand).

Oliver, who wrote or cowrote 11 of the 12 John Medeski-produced tracks (the 12th is the traditional gospel number "Angel Band"), sounds like a ready-to-rumble composite of Danny O'Keefe, Neil Young and Steve Miller as he and Chris weave the sort of tales that demand a star-filled night, a roaring fire and beer so cold it isn't barely north of frozen. Listen to the exit wound that is "Tried and Tempted" as it butts up against the easygoing satisfaction of "Chocolate on My Tongue," the unbuttoned liberty of "The Truth Is the Light" and the sweet gratitude of "That's What Angels Can Do" and know the boys are absolutely right--there is no way they can lose.

Originally published in April 2006
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