Album review: Woods Live at Third Man Records

Woods Live at Third Man Records

Brooklyn’s Woods plugged in and turned it up on its live album it recorded at Jack White’s Third Man Records.

White has been releasing shows from artists who stop by his musical headquarters in Nashville since the operation’s inception. In the past, he has released concerts from musicians as varied as experimental hip-hop artist Shabazz Palaces, country crooner Ashley Monroe and mega-chill guitarist Jack Johnson in his Third Man series — and don’t forget Neil Young’s “A Letter Hom,e” which he recorded in a 1940s studio the size of telephone booth.

White is certainly a musical anthologist at heart and these recordings must satisfy some kind of need to record everything he has the ability to do and what better way to get musicians to come play at his complex than to promise a high quality-recording in an intimate atmosphere pressed to vinyl? Can’t pass on those deals.

Woods’ May concert in the house that Jack built reveals a more amplified and interesting version of the lilting psych-folk that has been present over the band’s six studio albums. Where those studio releases can sometimes wash themselves out over time in the lo-fi acousticopia and singer James Earl’s redundant falsetto, Woods turns up the amperage on its songs on stage and adds some electric urgency to the proceedings. The songs don’t drift away from you but rather hover around you like bees in a meadow, humming with pastoral fuzz. There is a vibrancy in the details that somehow gets muddled in the studio. Take the sweet jaunt of “Leaves Like Glass,” which becomes prettier on stage with sharper tones from the electric guitars giving more definition to the breezy rhythm. The outgoing swaths of color the organ provides at the end just tickles the ear. The closing “Moving To The Left” feels like a big hug from an old friend as its nostalgic melody tapers off into a celebratory jam.

The bulk of the material played on the album covers songs found on the then-recent release of “City Sun Eater In The River Of Light,” the most sonically adventurous album for Woods. It was a smart choice, as the band takes advantage of the freedom of the stage to revel in its more exploratory sensibilities. The hazy reggae of “Sun City Creeps” courses with ominous energy with the help from a horn section, eventually spiking with fuzzed freakouts on the guitar that cut through the haze. The album’s highlight, though, is a jammed out “The Take,” which stretches on for 10 minutes of psychedelic wonder. Each part of the song is indulged in even more, from the gloomy burblings of the bass at the beginning to a thrashing of guitars in the middle section that explode out of the speakers, finally ending in a iridescent puddle of rusty riffs from the guitars. Woods gives the audience something different than what it produces in the studio, providing one of the best versions of a song the band has ever recorded.

“Woods Live at Third Man Records” certainly proves this band is worth checking out live. It will be a little harder to go back to just the studio albums after one spin of this record.

  • Woods
    Woods Live at Third Man Records
    Dec. 9, 2016
    Label: Third Man Records

About Garrett Bethmann

Garrett Bethmann is a graduate of University of Mary Washington with a degree in English. An eight-year resident of Lake Tahoe, he now lives in Denver, Colorado.

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