Night of the Living Wood: Hollywood Red says goodbye to Woody Wood at Jack of the Wood; Thursday, Jan. 6.
The first time I saw Aaron “Woody” Wood sing and play guitar was a couple years back at a fine summertime installment of Downtown After 5 featuring the Big Easy soul of the Dirty Dozen Brass Band. Woody, with old buddies Bill Reynolds and Scott Sharpe, opened for the swinging Dozen on a few gratuitous tunes for what became one of the most memorably fun collaborations I’ve seen in my Asheville tenure.
That evening’s performance instilled in me a sense of wonder about the slinky, longhaired fireball with the flame-embroidered pants and Chuck Taylors to match. Armed with likeable high-register vocals and blues-rocking electric-guitar strokes — when he’s not flat-picking for various acoustic outfits, including his bluegrass-famous dad’s A.L. Wood Band — Woody Wood is a bit like a hippie Angus Young crossed with Jake and Elwood Blues (though mainly Jake, I think). Young Woody retains a killer combination of front-man charisma and wicked guitar prowess — and the former Blue Rag certainly has what it takes to go the distance in his chosen field.
I regret to say I didn’t see much of Woody after that Downtown After 5 — a tragedy of some caliber now that he’s gone off to sow his royal oats alongside the Dirty Dozen, Dr. John and wheelbarrows of other accomplished studs in the music-tainted bowels of New Orleans. I won’t bemoan his departure too much, since Woody more than covered that sentimental ground during his own personal Last Waltz at Jack of the Wood.
The guest of honor, alongside the promising, but now derailed, Hollywood Red, played a top-notch farewell gig just four days prior to Woody’s scheduled descent into the Big Easy.
The evening certainly had its share of ups and downs — and some decent halftime entertainment, too: The latter came when an angry young lass literally threw her presumably now-ex boyfriend’s ass to the pavement between sets. A good-sized crowd turned out at the normally bluegrass-flavored home of the Green Man, where even the doorman didn’t know how to pitch this change-up to his regulars, warning one approaching group: “Boys, it’s not bluegrass tonight. It’s live rock ‘n’ roll with Woody Wood.”
Indeed it was.
The rousing evening featured a well-chosen potpourri of covers and more local special-guest slots than I could ever keep up with. The three-set outing stank of top-notch Woody love, with lots of NOLA-minded tunes and other sentimental favorites dispersed throughout — including a superbly timed and delivered “Dear Mr. Fantasy” late in the show.
The primary Hollywood lineup featured Aaron Price on keys, Paul Leech (County Farm) on bass and “Dynamic” Danny Hensley on drums. That crew helped the star hone in on Woody’s “Tell It on the Mountain” and a slightly botched, but still memorable (and timely), version of Black Sabbath’s classic “War Pigs.”
Rocking blues was the primary order of business this night, but Woody and Co. showed their versatility on a bit of reggae, not to mention a souped-up version of Outkast’s “Hey Ya.” That ATL-hip-hop nod followed an apt final-set opener of Van Morrison’s “Baby Please Don’t Go” (down to New Orleans, naturally). Hits from Elvis, Hank Jr. and Hendrix rounded out the evening palate. Another highlight came when West Asheville sirens Menage graced the stage late in the game for a groovy run through “Mustang Sally.”
Woody tried to close out with a Beatles-flavored epilogue, with a section of “Dig a Pony” morphing into Paul McCartney’s “Get Back,” but then … Jack suddenly pulled the plug, for it had apparently grown far too late for rock music in Asheville.
As the irate local star pointed out after getting yanked mid-song: “They won’t cut you off in the middle of your last song down in New Orleans.” Righty-O.
Score: On the cartoon-characters scale, Woody Wood scores a Woody Woodpecker: small, wily and extremely dangerous in his own loveable, wood-pecking way.