With a comfortable, down-home feeling, The Muse, the fifth studio album release from The Wood Brothers, conjures the image of a glorious meadow and rolling hill, completed by smiling faces dancing to the feel-good vibrations of The Wood Brothers’ music. The album, true to form, is bare-bones folk music, organic to the core, with earnest vocals complemented by acoustic guitar, upright bass, and harmonica. The Muse is mellow, soulful, and downright good, earnest music.
The Wood Brothers formed in 2005, after brothers Oliver and Chris Wood spent years pursuing individual music careers. Chris Wood is most well-known for his role as the bassist in the avant-garde jazz trio, Medeski, Martin, and Wood. Oliver Wood performed with MM&W as a guest musician, and the brothers soon began collaborating. With Oliver’s penchant for songwriting and Chris’s ability for intricate composing, the brothers quickly found that they were on to something. Something groovy.
Now, some eight years later, The Muse is a statement to The Wood Brothers’ ingenuity as musicians. The album kicks off with the soulful “Wastin’ My Mind,” a folk tune where the singer laments about wasting his mental energy on someone deemed unworthy. The song itself is hopeful, in its piano fills and driving bass line melodies, with horn arrangements that drive home the message. It’s a thoughtful tune that shuffles along, finding solace by embracing its own despair, and the music accompanies that journey perfectly.
While some songs on the album are slower, more thoughtful compositions, including “Neon Tombstone,” “Keep Me Around,” and the ballad “Sweet Maria,” others are fast-paced grooves. “Who the Devil” comes to mind, as it is an upbeat funky number with quick, spoken chorus lyrics about the devil spinning the world around. The song contains a great instrumental break, with a tension-building electric guitar solo that drops into a string section before bursting into a particularly exciting final verse and chorus. This is a great song, from a great album.
The success of The Muse comes from beautiful poetic lyrics paired with beautiful poetic instrumentation behind them. This combination is the real strength of The Wood Brothers, who, after years of collaborating, have found their formula to create excellent music. The Muse is a collection of thoughtful, soulful music that is guaranteed to leave any listener smiling wholesomely.