In a career chock full of highlights, The Wood Brothers hold a special place in their hearts for their performances at Levon Helm's legendary Midnight Ramble. As repeat special guests at Helm's famed Woodstock barn, the trio – guitarist Oliver Wood, bassist Chris Wood, and drummer Jano Rix – developed a cherished friendship with the late icon that transcended simple musical collaboration and left an indelible mark on their songs and their lives. That shared history made it all the more emotional when the trio returned to the barn on August 19, 2016, for their first Ramble since Helm's passing. Captured pristinely on their new album, Live At The Barn, the band's sold-out performance that night spanned their career and showcased the kind of singularly eclectic and electrifying performance style that's earned them devoted legions of fans around the world.
Over the course of the album's nine tracks, the band careens from soul to folk to funk to blues to rock, mixing acoustic and electric instruments and effortlessly blending eras and regions of American music. While the album documents their remarkably adventurous musicianship and tight interplay, it also manages to capture their extraordinary relationship with their fans, an essential ingredient in the magic of any Wood Brothers concert. On "I Got Loaded," the exuberant audience joins in a rousing call and response, while the bluesy groove of "Tried And Tempted" elicits whoops and hollers from listeners overcome by the energy in the room. The Wood Brothers can effectively transform any venue into a revival tent with their exhilarating performances, but there's something singular about playing in that barn.
With Live At The Barn, The Wood Brothers weave their own little moment into the rich and ever expanding tapestry of Levon's barn, while at the same time tipping their cap to the influences that came before them. It's only fitting, then, that the record ends with The Band's "Ophelia," a mainstay of The Wood Brothers' live show from a time well before any of them ever imagined performing, let alone recording an album, in such an historic space.