Getting right to the point – Kingdom in My Mind is the Wood Brothers’ finest studio album to date.
Born from jams, authorship of the 10 tracks – plus a short reprise – is credited to guitarist Oliver Wood, bassist/harmonica player Chris Wood and multi-instrumentalist Jano Rix. Taken as a whole, the 38-minute LP is full of lively numbers even as the trio spends an inordinate time singing about dying on cuts such as “Little Bit Sweet,” “Don’t Think about My Death” and “Satisfied,” which begins with Oliver’s rhetorical, “Do you remember the day you die?”
These songs are heavy to be sure – “Alabaster” is about escaping an abusive relationship; “Little Blue” addresses environmentalism; “Jitterbug Love,” whose lyrics provide the album title, ruminates on Satan’s origin – but the music ensures they aren’t weighed down.
And Kingdom in My Mind is quintessentially Wood, full of bluegrass-cum-gospel harmonies and all the unique instrumentation fans have come to expect from the trio. Oliver, whose sardonic side comes out on “Cry Over Nothing,” when he sings, “Got a lot of balls … in the air,” plays nasty acoustic and electric slide and brings the blues. Chris, who takes two turns on lead vocals (“Jitterbug” and “Don’t Think”), is jazzier on his standup and electric basses. And Rix is the secret sauce, adding essential keyboards, providing the clip-clop percussion only his shuitar can offer and playing drums in the style of late-period Beatles Ringo Starr.
Seven LPs in, Kingdom in My Mind is peak Wood Brothers – a band at its collaborative best. Maybe they’ll make a better record someday; but there’s no shame if they don’t.