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Wood Brothers return to Ithaca's State Theatre for Saturday show

The Wood Brothers
Shervin Lainez
/
Provided
The Wood Brothers return to the State Theatre of Ithaca on Saturday, March 4.

The Wood Brothers return to Ithaca this weekend, performing at the State Theatre on Saturday night.

The trio – siblings Oliver (guitar, vocals) and Chris (bass, vocals) Wood and Jano Rix (drums, keyboards, vocals) – have made regular visits to upstate New York, performing in the area several times a year.

“There are so many good places to play up there,” said Oliver Wood said in a recent phone interview from his home in Nashville. “Plus, in the summertime, it's so beautiful – the festivals and outdoor concerts are awesome. So absolutely we come as much as we can.”

Their latest album, “Heart is the Hero” (due out April 14), finds the Wood Brothers exploring new terrain while retaining the hallmarks of their distinctive sound, which blends blues, rock, country, folk, and gospel influences.

“I think there's certain strengths and things that we do that are very characteristic of our sound that are kind of hard to shake – they're just what we sound like,” said Wood. “We do make a conscious effort on each album to make it somehow different than our previous work. Sometimes those things are kind of subtle, and sometimes they're a little more radical. There are a few weird songs on this album that I think are quite different from other albums, but they're also some things that sound kind of like classic Wood Brothers, too. But we do make the effort to rearrange our ingredients to come up with new recipes.”

On their previous album, 2020’s “Kingdom in my Mind,” the Wood Brothers had just moved into their new studio in Nashville and had unlimited time to record hours of improvised music.

“That’s something we refer to as ‘spontaneous composition,’ where we came up with lots of cool musical ideas off the top of our heads and built up a little library of music,” Wood said. “And then we wrote words over that and recorded the vocals. But with the editing and overdubbing, it was a big process.

The Wood Brothers
Shervin Lainez
/
Provided
The Wood Brothers

“On this new album, we really wanted to limit ourselves to performances of the songs and we wanted to limit ourselves in terms of options,” he continued. “With digital recording these days, you have unlimited options of repairing, editing, and manipulating stuff after you recorded it. And you also end up dealing with computers all day, which can be really anti-creative, and it can take you out of the moment because you end up looking at a screen a lot.

“We didn't want to see any screens during this process, so we went completely analog to a tape machine that only had 16 tracks. So not only did we not have to look at the screen, all we had to do is listen to what we'd done and then judge it accordingly. And that ended up being so much more fun than agonizing over a screen – why should you even look at the music, when you should be listening to the music? We had to be pretty concise about what we wanted to include in those 16 tracks, so it's very simply done. And it's very refined in that way.

“The other thing is the analog aspect of it really makes you present because you don't have all the editing capabilities – there's no fallback,” he continued. “And so that means that you have to be very present. A lot of us are used to working in the digital realm, where in the back of our heads, we always know that you can fix something. And in this case, that was not that; this was more like a performance. So it felt more alive like you're playing a show. And you have to put your best foot forward and you have to be really present.”

The band is looking forward to taking “Heart is the Hero” album on the road this spring.

“We’re excited to bring in these songs from the new record – it's going to be fun to mix them in,” Wood said. “It's hard to pick songs for each show. We have so many songs because we've been doing this for a long time, so you never know what you're gonna get.”

Separated in age by four years, Oliver and Chris have been playing together as the Wood Brothers for almost 20 years. “I’m amazed at how fast the time has gone,” Wood said. “You can take things for granted. But when I look back, I'm really proud of the work that we've done. And I'm proud of the way that we've evolved and stayed true to our vision. Each time we make a record, or each time we have a show, it seems like we're doing it on our own terms. We never went the route of the big record deal – not that we necessarily had a choice – but I think we always have chosen to be ourselves. So that’s pretty gratifying. And of course, having that bond with my brother is great, too.”

Michaela Anne
Natia Cinco/N.V Photography
Michaela Anne

Michaela Anne, the Nashville singer-songwriter who made her local debut at the Hangar Theatre last year, will open the show. Her latest album is “Oh To Be That Free,” which Yep Roc Records released in June 2022.

If you go

Who: The Wood Brothers, with Michaela Anne opening

When: 8 p.m. Saturday

Where: State Theatre of Ithaca

Cost: $28 and up, available online here

Event Info

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Jim Catalano covers the Finger Lakes music scene for WITH (90.1 FM in Ithaca, WITHradio.org) and its affiliates.