Woody Mann and The Wiyos at The Towne Crier

I had a really great experience at The Towne Crier two weeks ago, when David Jacobs-Strain and Garrin Benfield played there, and I had an even greater time this past Friday night, when I was there for yet another excellent double-bill. This time, it was Woody Mann and The Wiyos who were playing.

Listening to Woody Mann play is a transcendental experience. One can easily get lost in his rhythms and sounds, lost in an endless universe of the blues. His voice is compelling, it’s tone sad, sweet, and pleasing, all at the same time. He’s one with his guitar, and it’s blatantly obvious that they’ve been through many years of music and change together; it’s an extension of him, rather than a separate entity. Woody Mann was so incredible live that it sounded as though his set on Friday could have been a recording, which I think says a lot about him as a musician. He doesn’t play strictly blues, but more of a jazz/blues fingerstyle fusion, and his guitar playing has perpetual motion — it’s never stagnant, which is one of the reasons I love his music. Woody’s sound has a certain softness to it but his playing is sharp, if that distinction makes sense, and his music has a lullaby-like quality. These sure ain’t the lullabies your mother sang to you, though… No offense to my own mother, who sang choir in high school and college, but I’d take Woody Mann any day.

The Wiyos always change up their set list, and I thought Friday’s order fit together particularly well. They also sounded especially wonderful playing the songs on the list, although they always surprise me by how much I enjoy their music. You think I’d get used to how great they are, considering how many times I’ve seen them over the years, but that’s not the case. I guess the reason for that would be because The Wiyos are constantly varying the way they play their songs, and are endlessly adding new things to already existing ones (or perhaps taking things away from old songs, and going in a new direction with them). On Friday, “Dying Crapshooter’s Blues” had an especially noir sound to it… The next few songs were the full-bodied Teddy Weber original, “All Aboard”, the sunny “Silver Spoon” (featuring one of my personal favorites, the banjo uke), the upbeat swing standard “Rhythm”, and the slow, sad, “Gee Baby, Ain’t I Good To You.” My emotions were a roller coaster! One emotion is a constant though, and that is my love for The Wiyos. They are one of the most creative and innovative bands I’ve ever heard.

For their last few songs, The Wiyos brought Woody Mann onto the stage. One of the tunes they played was “Lord I Feel Just Like Goin’ On”, which was written by the Reverend Gary Davis, of whom Woody Mann was a student (and, interestingly enough, Parrish of The Wiyos was actually a student of Woody Mann’s). For their last song – well, what would have been their last song had The Wiyos not been called back for an encore – all the musicians brought their instruments down off the stage and walked out into the audience to play the classic “Is You Is Or Is You Ain’t My Baby.” Michael and Teddy had mentioned during an interview on the radio station WKZE earlier in the week that they want to add a beatboxer/vocal percussionist extraordinaire friend of theirs, Adam Matta (who contributed his skills to a number of tracks on The Wiyos’ new album, which is due for release in July), to some of the shows on their current tour, at which point Will Baylies, who was interviewing the two, joked, “All right, sounds good… Just keep adding members to the band!” (The Wiyos used to be a trio before the addition of Teddy about two years ago). I have yet to see Adam Matta live, and Will might be on to something with the whole adding-Adam-as-a-member joke, but I thought The Wiyos really had something good going with Woody Mann the other night, and I’d love to see him play with them again. He and The Wiyos had actually played a co-bill at The Towne Crier once before, although I wasn’t at that show. Hopefully Phil, the owner of the place, will have them back yet again! If you see that show listed in the future, and you live within a hundred mile radius, you’d be a fool not to go. I know I’ll be there.

Videos of Woody Mann:

Try Me One More Time

Delia

Videos of The Wiyos:

Sweet Jenny Lee

Promenade

Give It To Mary With Love

Lord I Feel Just Like Goin’ On (with Woody Mann)

Frankie and Johnny (The Wiyos’ encore)

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