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A side project of Brooklyn’s alt/indie outfit Meneguar, Jeremy Earl and brief member Christian DeRoeck first came to light through their 2005 double-cassette release HOW TO SURVIVE IN + IN THE WOODS {*7}. Re-released on CD a few years later, it had all the folky hallmarks of BON IVER (or DANIEL JOHNSTON, or SEBADOH) in shape and sound, although it was indeed a precursor to that particular artist; tracks `Silence Is Golden’, `Broke’ and `Holes’ come off as best examples. AT REAR HOUSE (2006) {*6} was virtually part two with once again the high-pitched quiver of Earl at its most squeakiest.
Adding fellow Meneguar multi-instrumentalist/co-conspirator Jarvis Taveniere and tape-effects man G. Lucas Crane (Kevin Morby played bass), the structure of the group took on a more experimental standpoint on the WOODS FAMILY CREEPS (2008) {*6} semi-side-project.
SONGS OF SHAME (2009) {*7} was WOODS taking folk-rock music to new levels, but where the jam-packed 9-minute wig-out of `September With Pete’ (featuring Pete Nolan of The Magick Markers) fitting in was indeed a mystery; their version of GRAHAM NASH’s classic `Military Madness’ was timely, and it did give Earl his NEIL YOUNG connection – sort of. ECHO LAKE (2010) {*7} and SUN AND SHADE (2011) {*7} continued on Earl and Taveniere’s newfound BYRDS-meets-GRATEFUL DEAD approach; the West Coast was reborn with setting one foot past Death Valley.
Uprooting himself and group to upstate New York, singer-songwriter Jeremy Earl opened the doors for album five, BEND BEYOND (2012) {*7}. Adding newbie drummer Aaron Neveu to free up the guitar for Taveniere, WOODS were able to turn a corner in the commercial stakes. While not totally abandoning their lo-fi noise motif (example `Cascade’), Earl and Co captured a vibe once the bastion of CRAZY HORSE and Laurel Canyon acts. Exploring the avenues left by great songwriting teams of yore, confidence and a peaceful, easy feeling oozed from the excellent, `Cali In A Cup’, `Is It Honest?’ and `Impossible Sky’.
2014’s WITH LIGHT AND WITH LOVE {*8} went a long way to position WOODS as a contender among the shuffle of rising roots/indie-rock outfits. Pinned together by its 9-minute, BYRDS-like title track, modern Americana and stony psychedelia were genres close to the sweaty and sonic brew of Earl’s WOODS. Three-dimensional and not afraid to wear their heroes of their sleeves (GEORGE HARRISON/BEATLES, DYLAN, CSN&Y, et al), the spirit of past masters shone through on the meandering but meaningful `Shepherd’, `New Light’, `Shining’, `Moving To The Left’ and `Full Moon’.
Gabriel Lucas Crane and KEVIN MORBY had now departed for other interests in 2013 (the latter for a solo career), and keyboardist John Andrews stayed long enough for 2016’s CITY SUN EATER IN THE RIVER OF LIGHT {*7}. Augmented at this stage by Alec Spiegelman (sax, flute), Jon Catfish Delorme (pedal steel) and Cole Karmen-Green (trumpet), WOODS’ tightly-pitched twang had an added element of Afro-funk/Ethiopian jazz a la Mulatu Astatke (examples `Sun City Creeps’, `Can’t See It All’ and `The Take’). It was hard to imagine that the quintet were now nine albums in, and as yet still no major label offers to woo them from label Woodsist. Main man Jeremy Earl duly incorporated heady rhythms of CAN-meets-STING for the set’s best bit, `I See In The Dark’, whilst the others, including `The Other Side’ and `Hollow Home’, combined horizontal but uplifting sonic psych.
After pushing out the largely limited LP, LIVE AT THIRD MAN RECORDS (2016) {*6} for JACK WHITE’s label, the underrated but determined WOODS topped up their studio CV by way of LOVE IS LOVE (2017) {*7}. As one would expect, laid back and trippy for the most part, Jeremy and Co emerged from an intense but worthwhile two-month spell in Brooklyn’s Thump Studios to bring forth their subtle blend of jazzy neo-psych. The six-track album only lasted for just over a half hour (10 minutes taken up by `Spring Is In The Air’), though their bittersweet cajoling and sonic vibes came across perfectly on the opening title and the nightmarish, `Lost In The Crowd’.
The following March, WOODS and Sweden’s DUNGEN (i.e. Gustav Ejstes and Reine Fiske) combined well for the spooky free-jazz “Myths 003” LP; an idea spurred by a meeting of minds at the Marfa Myths Festival.
© MC Strong 2011/GRD2 / rev-up MCS May2014-May2018

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