Chris and Oliver Wood started on different musical paths. After the brothers from Colorado left home, Chris made a name as a bass wiz in the New York City jazz-funk outfit Medeski, Martin & Wood, while Oliver led the Atlanta-based blues band King Johnson.
The siblings were fostering careers with their respective bands for close to two decades, when one night at a North Carolina gig in 2004, Oliver (four years older) sat in with his younger brother’s band, and the family chemistry was hard to ignore. Soon after, Chris and Oliver decided to record together, taking influence from the campfire songs and foundational blues recordings they were exposed to as kids by their parents.
By 2008, the Wood Brothers released the breakout Americana album, “Loaded,” which became a widespread introduction to the duo’s groove-driven, folk-rock sound, and, after adding percussionist Jano Rix to complete the line-up, the group began touring at a relentless pace. Opening amphitheater stages on the Tedeschi Trucks Band’s Wheels of Soul Tour led to greater exposure in 2017, and the next year the group notched a Grammy nomination for the album “One Drop of Truth.”
In the spring, the band released its eighth studio album, “Heart is the Hero,” a 10-song collection recorded completely analog to a 16-track tape at The Studio Nashville in Tennessee. Absent computer manipulation and studio tinkering, the tunes capture the visceral energy of a Wood Brothers performance and the magic of sibling connection.
In the title track, Oliver Wood sings about trusting emotional instinct, which remains a guiding principle of this band’s entire foundation.
“The chorus of the album’s title track says, ‘the heart is the hero of every song,’” Oliver Wood said in a statement. “By no means was it intentional, but much of the material we were writing for this record seemed to come full circle to the idea of trusting in your heart in matters that you can’t control. Those words seemed to illustrate so much of what we were feeling—that heart and spirit guides us through this world. Even by recording completely analog, we had to commit to feeling the performances and have faith in what the three of us were creating together instead of trying to make things perfect by letting technology or overthinking things get in the way.”
The Wood Brothers perform at the Ting Pavilion in Charlottesville on June 15 and at Virginia Arts Festival Williamsburg Live in Williamsburg on June 16.