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Smoke Ring Halo

The Wood Brothers
SOUTHERN GROUND ARTISTS

The Wood Brothers are Oliver and Chris. Oliver sings and plays guitar; Chris plays bass and also sings. Chris is also the “Wood” in Medeski Martin and Wood, but when he’s pulling duty with his big brother, he plays a country-fried style of blues. Smoke Ring Halo is hardly a radical departure from their previous efforts, but that’s OK; the comforting familiarity of the Wood Brothers’ music is a large part of its appeal. Oliver, who performs most of the lead vocals, has a slightly nasally (or is that “twangy”?) singing style that perfectly suits the material — tales of love and loss told in a world-weary yet cheerfully resigned tone, underscored by Oliver’s tasteful picking and greasy slide guitar licks and held down by Chris’ authoritative upright bass. (Kudos to producer Jim Scott for making Chris’ bass so prominent in the mix; my car speakers were rattling on a couple cuts, and they usually don’t rattle, even when I listen to Motörhead.) Standout tracks include “Pay Attention,” “When I Was Young” and “Shoofly Pie,” which is about dessert.