The Word and The Wood Brothers
Wow the Fifth Annual Lowdown Hudson Music Festival
A SoundPress.net Feature Article by Rich and Laura Lynch

The fifth annual Lowdown Hudson Music Festival took place Tuesday and Wednesday, July 14 and 15, 2015. This year's event included favorites from the roots-rock scene. The free rain or shine concerts were held at the spectacular Waterfront Plaza (230 Vesey Street) in the heart of the Financial District in New York City. The music ran from 6:30-10 p.m.


Robert Randolph brings sacred steel to Manhattan.

Tuesday's concert featured O.A.R. and Ryan Bingham. Formed in 1996, O.A.R. are well respected for their blend of roots-rock and reggae. American singer/songwriter Ryan Bingham who broke out in 2009 already has a number of prestigious awards to his credit including a Grammy. Wednesday's show starred The Wood Brothers and The Word. Both Chris and Oliver Wood were in successful bands before joining family forces. Their music is a combination of blues, folk, harmonies and roots. The Word is an improvisational rock-gospel super group featuring pedal-steel guitarist Robert Randolph, keyboardist John Medeski, and all three members of the North Mississippi Allstars (guitarist Luther Dickinson, drummer Cody Dickinson and bassist Chris Chew).

SoundPress.net was on the scene on night number two. Despite a rather dire weather forecast, it was a beautiful evening for an outdoor festival and plenty of people showed up. The stage was set up along side of the Hudson River near the Freedom Tower thus creating an incredible backdrop. In the past these concerts had seating but this year they tried a standing format, which worked well allowing folks to dance more freely.


The Word featured musical all-stars Chris Chew and John Medeski.

The Word is about the love of gospel music and the scared steel. A big chunky rhythm set the pace for what evolved into an experimental revival. They sang about prayer but it was the instruments that were talking in tongues carrying on spirited conversations punctuated by Robert's pedal steel guitar. Songs melded one into another as fans danced to the joy-filled jams. At one point, Cody came out from behind his kit to play what appeared to be an electronic washboard as Randolph moved in to pound the drums then back to his pedal steel for more melodic meandering.

Robert introduced his bandmates as they returned to their potent praise music with a hint of the blues. Woven into their danceable gospel inspired instrumentals they thanked Jesus with their words. The Quintet was on the same musical page which was impressive as they generally play in other groups, although they do have a new album (Soul Food out with a fall tour scheduled for 2015). Their set at the Lowdown was engaging and energized proving that The Word are worthy of the praised bestowed upon them.

The Wood Brothers Chris (stand-up bass) and Oliver (guitars) along with multi-instrumentalist Jano Rix kicked off the festivities by presenting an animated set that showcased songs from their album The Muse. Rix used the body of his acoustic guitar to craft rhythms in lively songs such as "I Got Loaded". Jano tapped his instrument or used brushes added additional sounds to the brother's already up-tempo, tight grooves. Oliver generally handed lead vocals but harmonies were also a big part of their sweet sound. Rix moved to a small drum kit to craft a different vibe for "Lovin' Arms" and a rootsy jam in "Wait For The Morning To Come".


The Wood Brothers brought The Muse and their rustic music.

"True story here," said Oliver who dedicated the next song to all the amazing musicians who were playing "crappy bar gigs in New York tonight." "Postcards From Hell" shared snippets of how passionate players look at their craft. "In New York City, what's better pie or cake," inquired Oliver before they went into a flavorful and satisfying "Shoofly Pie". Fans helped sing the slower "Luckiest Man" and "Who The Devil" ran the gamut from serious to sassy. They closed with their own unique spin on The Band's "Ophelia". The Wood Brothers presented a winsome set that traversed through varied and vibrant musical terrains.

Brookfield Place has hosted the Lowdown Hudson Music Festival for the past five years. As part of the ongoing renewal in the area, Brookfield Place has added more dining, entertainment and shopping options. Hudson Eats is part of the Brookfield Complex. Its dining area has wonderful window views of the Hudson River. Arts Brookfield is the artist arm of the firm that presents free cultural events throughout the year to the public in both their indoor and outdoor locations at Brookfield's office properties worldwide. The next festival that Arts Brookfield, NYC will host is "Rooftop Films" at the Waterfront Plaza. Movies will be shown July 30 through August 1, 2015 starting at 7:30 p.m.


Chris and Oliver Wood at the Lowdown Hudson Music Festival.

Related Links: For more information on the LOWDOWN HUDSON MUSIC FESTIVAL and the other organizations mentioned please visit the following links -- Arts Brookfield | Lowdown 2014 | Lowdown 2013 | Lowdown 2012

(Originally Published on July 20, 2015)

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