Loving Arms

The Wood Brothers, consisting of Oliver Wood, Chris Wood, and Jano Rix, has become one of my all-time favorite bands, and I'd like to explain why.

When I was living in Chicago in the midst of the exciting transition of Wicker Park from the seed of artsy hipsters to trendy bros-ville, I had a group of friends that kept geeking out over this somewhat obscure rootsy, mostly acoustic duo. They would cover their songs at gigs and would not shut up about them. I was completely turned off. My natural stance on the imposition of excitement over an artist is very very firm resistance. If you tell me this band will blow my mind, even if it would, I lose all interest whatsoever.

This is not to say I didn't believe my friends. In fact, I trust their creative perspectives completely. It's simply a matter of needing to discover my own reasons for admiring an artist, as opposed to borrowing theirs.

Fast forward a few months as I start to come around, checking out their first album, Ways Not To Lose, stacked with earthy tunes cleverly crafted with a strong emotional core, even on the more light-hearted songs. There is hardly a wasted word or note in these mini-masterpieces.

Once I started to casually enjoy some of these tunes, Paige sent me a link to a YouTube video of their Electronic Press Kit for their fourth album, Smoke Ring Halo, which featured an interview with the brothers. This is where they got me.

They have a song called Loving Arms, a song I had begun to cover at duo shows with Nick & Paige. I didn't read to far into it at the time. I just liked the tune and did my best to do it justice. In the interview, Oliver explained that their mother had suffered from Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) otherwise known as Lou Gehrig's Disease, and that "When you miss those Loving Arms" refers to the moment when this motor neuron disease takes one's ability to embrace their loved ones. My heart sank. Not a year before that, my own father was diagnosed with ALS, leading to exclaim that "Loving Arms" hit so close to home that "I practically lived there."

From that point the songs reached a whole new meaning. Singing along became a cathartic experience that was both draining and reviving. I lived in those records buried deep in the understanding that these songs connected because they seemed to be written and executed out of necessity instead of creative dramatization. The songs were real and full of purpose, which was what I needed at that time.

Since that day I have met Chris, Oliver, and Jano several times, and each time I'm nervous. I don't get nervous meeting musicians! I am one! . . . and yet I find myself struggling to keep my cool as they are as genuine and polite as can be. My emotional connection to their songs far outweighs my personal relationship with the guys as people. . . which I suppose is what makes a fan. I'd never felt like a "fan" before I met them. When it came to meeting musicians, I always strived to feel like a colleague, but I guess there's a first time for everything.

I have since had more conversations and encounters with The Wood Brothers, and perhaps some day I'll move from the "fan" category to the "friend" category, but regardless, I am looking forward to their next record with the eagerness of a child waiting on his birthday.