Opening the show Monday night were the T Sisters from Oakland, California. Sisters Chloe, Rachel, and Erika Tietjen performed a handful of original folk and gospel-tinged offerings which included "Come Back Down", "Sticks & Stones", and "The Road" from their latest self-entitled release T Sisters. Trust me, not only are these sassy sisters easy on the eyes, but they can play the guitar, washboard, and banjo as well as harmonize until the cows come home. The highlight of their set for this newly converted fan had to be their stunning a cappella rendition of "Thief", also from their latest full length studio release.
With a solitary light shining down upon the darkened stage of the Carolina Theatre, three extremely talented musicians emerged and embarked on what would be an evening of soulful harmonies, foot stomping jams, and special tributes to fallen heroes. Based out of Nashville, The Wood Brothers are comprised of brothers Chris (Upright Bass, Harmonica, Vocals) and Oliver (Guitar, vocals) as well as multi-instrumentalist Jano Rix (Drums, Keyboards, Vocals, Melodica, Shuitar). "Stop That Train" opened the set with a smooth transition into "Two Places" from the band's 2015 release Paradise as folks began grooving to the music.
"Keep Me Around" was the first introduction of the evening to Jano Rix's shuitar. Per Jano, his version of the shuitar started out as a crappy guitar he morphed into a percussion instrument complete with a snare and other miscellaneous bells and whistles. Oliver Wood then graciously welcomed the audience and gave a very sincere apology for having to cancel an earlier show due to unforeseen circumstances. He then gave credence to how special a place the Carolina Theatre was and how patrons should cherish it and continue to support the acts that perform within its historic walls.
Next up on the docket was "I Got Loaded", inspiring a Carolina Theatre sing-a-long with widespread dancing spilling out into the aisles. Replacing his flat top acoustic with his beloved hollow-body Guild electric, the elder Wood brother elevated the show to another level with his blues/funk guitar licks and soulful vocals on "Tried And Tempted". Not to be outdone by his older sibling and utilizing his upright bass as a dance partner, Chris Wood showcased his skillful and quite elegant dance moves on the uptempo "Snake Eyes".
Taking a couple of minutes to reflect, The Wood Brothers performed an amazing version of "Midnight Rider" in tribute to the late former Allman Brothers drummer Butch Trucks. "One More Day" felt like a 'call to worship' song on steroids featuring gospel-like vocals as well as bass and drum solos - not to mention silky slide guitar grooves. Then without further ado, the brothers along with Rix congregated around an old microphone center stage. They called this a "special microphone" and explained how in the old days everyone played and sang into one single mic. This alignment gave birth to "The Muse" and "Sing About It" in which the band was joined by the T Sisters.
If you close your eyes and give a good listen to the Wood Brothers, more than likely you will hear the influence of The Band in their music. Prior to his passing in 2012, The Wood Brothers spent a considerable amount of time in upstate New York with Levon Helm at his legendary studio. It was there they honed their music while jamming in Midnight Rambles and thus forming a bond with the former drummer and vocalist. On January 13, 2017, The Wood Brothers released Live At The Barn which was recorded at Levon's fabled studio.
"Wastin' My Mind" was the first of five songs played from the live album in a tribute to Helm and featured a segment of 'dueling instruments' between one brother's bass and the other one's guitar. In introducing the finger picking sing-a-long "Postcards From Hell", Oliver proclaimed he was sending the song out to Levon which in turn drew a thunderous roar of approval from the patrons at 309 W. Morgan Street. The song with the funky breaks, "Honey Jar", concluded the opening set and left the crowd pleading for a return appearance.
With everyone standing and clapping inside the friendly (but rowdy) confines of the Carolina Theatre, Jano Rix took his place behind his keyboard and launched the intro to perhaps the band's best known song "Luckiest Man". Rejoined on stage by brothers Chris and Oliver, The Wood Brothers along with vocal assistance from the excited crowd finished the song and then went straight into "Ophelia" (The Band cover). What an incredible night of music and tributes at one of my favorite venues - The Carolina Theatre. Be sure to catch The Wood Brothers on tour with Tedeschi Trucks later this summer in Raleigh.