After a 2015 that saw The Wood Brothers further make their case for musical stardom with the release of the critically acclaimed album “Paradise,” followed by one of their most successful box office years with a 2016 tour that sold out across America, it might be easy to look at the release of the live disc “Live at the Barn” as the band’s chance to rest for a moment.
But the folk trio set to take the stage of the Carolina Theatre in Durham Monday night have taken the concept of the live album in a different direction.
Not only did they return to the Woodstock, N.Y., barn that was the site of their friend and mentor Levon Helm’s Midnight Ramble shows, the music on “Live at the Barn” serves as an audible illustration of the influence the late drummer had on their music.
Speaking to Oliver Wood on the phone during a break in the band’s winter tour, the guitarist opens up about how instrumental Helms was to his career.
“My brother (bassist Chris Wood) used to live near Woodstock, not far from Levon’s place, so sometimes I would go stay with him so the band could tour the Northeast,” Wood says. “A few times we ended up being booked at the Ramble, and I just remember each time just being amazingly special. I was a little star struck at the beginning because it’s such an intimate little venue, and you can play right where Levon will be playing when you open for him at the start of the show, and then you can sit in with him at the end of the night. It was surreal the first time we did it, and I just remember feeling so honored to be there..”
Wood didn’t realize it at the time, but looking back he sees that Helm was teaching the young band the proper way to treat both fans and fellow musicians.
“He was just always such a gracious and humble person to talk to,” Wood says. “He just always looked you in the eye, and seemed to treat everyone the same. That was pretty influential to us too, because a lot of times your mentors don’t even realize that they mean that much to you, and that they are teaching you by example. It’s so rare that you really get to meet your heroes so it felt like I was given the opportunity to connect with him a little closer.”
So even though a live album hints at “rest,” The Wood Brothers aren’t taking it easy in 2017. After the winter tour is up they have already signed on as a supporting act for Tedeschi Trucks Band’s summer tour, and they’re eyeing a late 2017 release date for their follow-up album of new material.
Wood laughs at the notion of taking his foot off the gas at this point in his career.
“I see a lot of hard work in the near future,” he says. “It’s fun to have a new record out, even if it’s a live album. . . . I think the cycle will just keep on going the way it’s been going for a while. You do what you have to do to keep food on the table.”
Who: The Wood Brothers, with T Sisters
When: 8 p.m. Monday
Where: Carolina Theatre, 309 W. Morgan St., Durham