CD Review: Hot club Americana from The Woodshedders on “O Dig”
The Woodshedders latest release and second studio album “O Dig” presents a carousel of songs, moving from Americana to gypsy jazz, through island breezes and acoustic funk. Dwayne Brooke has written a bevy of fine songs for this album, and what it lacks in cohesion it more than makes up for with its lyrical and musical strength.
The album opener, “Badger Blood“, is pure bonfire anthem, with a chorus that makes you want to raise your mug and sing along with the cast of characters, animals and food. The second track, “Narwhal”, presents a very different sound with high octane hot club jazz. Mandolin work by guest Danny Knicely compliments Van Deventer’s fiddle and Brooke’s guitar as they pack hundreds of notes in this two minute romp.
Jesse Schulzaberger’s drums set the mood for the island hopping “Slipping Through”, with more mandolin by Knicely and added vocals by Aimee Curl. The percussion shines again during a break on the following track, the hot jazzed “Listen!“. Young talent from Gaven Largent‘s dobro highlights the road trip inspired “Four Winds” before we finally slow down for the old time themed waltz “Virginia’s Fair Daughters”.
“Sand Grain” may bespeak a small pebble, but this track is a real gem. It evokes the spirit of Bob Dylan’s “Tombstone Blues”, with Brooke’s lyrical imagery coming through strong and Van Deventer’s fiddle soaring above. Slowing down once more for the dreamy “Swallows Wings”, we are treated to the guest harmonies of Aimee Curl and Morgan Morrison of the Furnace Mountain Band, with the ‘Shedders playing impeccable backup and fills to highlight their guest singers.
Before you can be lulled into complacency, the album closer “Chicken to Change” practically demands that you get up and dance. Ryan Mayo’s bass paves the way for this acoustified funk tune containing a fantastic bass, fiddle & drum break that will leave you wanting to hear just what The Woodshedders could possibly bring out next.
No two songs are the same on “O Dig”, but that’s fine because each one stands well on its own. Compared to the more string-oriented sound of 2007’s “Catch That Yardbird”, “O Dig” cranks up the rhythm, volume and energy featured in the “Yardbird” title track. My only small criticism of “O Dig” is that in an otherwise strong production of The Woodshedder’s talent, on a few tracks the volume level of Van Deventer’s superb fiddling is not quite as loud as I would like it to be. That aside, this is an exciting album of diverse, original, roots-influenced music. While the album as whole avoids easy classification, the hot club, country party sound of “O Dig” will find good rotation in many Americana music collections.
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