Al Wood & The Woodsmen
Album: Hooka Train
Label: Self Released
You could call it harmonica driven blues but this album has a lot more going on than just covering that genre of music, the title track takes you on the train ride that covers a lot of ground in discovering what Al Wood is all about, he pulls his lyrics by various means, from guitar riffs in his head, jotting down ideas and arrangements wherever and whenever they come to him, these are then translated onto instruments, steering cleverly away from the old blues cliches creating a modern thoughtful direction to his blues and roots sound, and he does have his very own distinctive sound.
A multi-talented performer and songwriter with a deep reverence for the blues and traditionally-based roots music, born in Sault Ste. Marie (the Soo), Ontario, and now based in Ottawa, Al has carved out a reputation for stellar high energy performances and recordings alike, his father first taught him how to pick out old country tunes on the harmonica and those influences come through on this his best album to date, he has to be commended for pushing the boundaries beyond the blues, there lurks influences of jazz, with some rootsie americana flavours thrown in, the title track ' Hooka Train' could easily slip onto a Johnny Cash album and sit neatly alongside Big River or Folsom Prison Blues with a rockabilly swing, and I don't say that lightly, strong lyrical content backed by superb musicianship throughout have really nailed what he is all about, a free spirited player and performer who has found his niche in his own songwriting and expression through his beloved harmonica, showing us who he really is and what he is capable of but still retaining the respect for the traditions.
There are many songs on the album that could be pulled out as favourites depending on the mood and time of listening but stand outs have to include the title track ' Hooka Train ', the country swinging ' Bluebird ' and ' Worryin’ Days Are Done ', a track written for his mother before she died.
Take the Chicago blues, mix it with some country and a pinch of rockabilly, let it simmer throwing in a little jazz and other diverse influences just when it comes to the boil and what is served up so deliciously well is ' Hooka Train ', it's the name of the album but it could very well be the name of a whole new recipe of music that only Al Wood is capable of cooking, after all it comes from his heart and soul, it's his sound, his inner thoughts, his songs and I'm glad he is sharing them round the table with us.
A gem of an album !