Tim Woods – Vortex
Self-Release – 2019
10 tracks; 40 minutes
Tim Woods has made a big record with ”Vortex.” I get the impression that when Woods and his producer Bobby Lee Rogers stepped into the studio, and asked themselves what they were going to use, they said in unison “Everything!”
Woods, originally from Western Pennsylvania, moved to Macon Georgia at 18, and became steeped in the classic blues of Willie Dixon, Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf. In the early 2000’s Woods was a founding member of the Mountain Jam Band. “Vortex” is his third album, his first was entitled “The Blues Sessions” and included guest appearances by David “Honey Boy” Edwards, Ike Stubblefield and Jeff Sipe among others. In 2012 Woods was inducted into the New York Blues Hall of Fame. His second album release “Human Race” like “Vortex,” was also produced by Rogers, who contributed drums, bass and keyboards while Woods delivered guitar and vocals and composed all ten tracks on the new album. Woods asserts his guitar-playing is influenced by his guitar instructor, the Pittsburgh blues musician Ernie Hawkins, and the Piedmont Blues fingerstyle playing of the Reverend Gary Davis.
The title track “Vortex” is the most compelling musically, and includes ethereal vocal harmonies by Woods’ sons Derek and Ryan. The album is predominantly blues-rock with a flair for the wall of sound sometimes reminiscent of Oasis or Pink Floyd, most especially when you hear a steel string acoustic guitar blended into the wall of keyboards and electric rhythm guitars. The album performances switch up musical styles from the wall of blues-rock to the funk groove of “Some of Your Love” – the melancholic instrumental “Sage” to the twelve bar “I Don’t Know Yet,” and the rockabilly “telephone-morphed” vocals of “This Mess.” The renowned record producer and keyboard player Paul Hornsby contributes a beautiful piano accompaniment to the song “Destination Unknown.” Hornsby has played with Elvin Bishop, and with Duane and Greg Allman in the Hour Glass in 1967, and has produced Charlie Daniels, Wet Willie and the Marshall Tucker Band. His piano playing is somewhat obscured by the organ track, and in my hearing would well have served the song better if it was brought up in the mix and more pronounced.
The standout tracks are “Vortex,” and the opening song “Ready” which brings the heavy guns of Woods’ rolling guitars driving the song in front of producer Rogers’ propulsive drumming. These two characters have clearly spent a long time together practicing their art, and fit together musically hand-in-glove. The album deserves attention for the power of Woods’ dreams. There’s enough contrast and dynamic variance in the musical landscape it depicts to merit repeated playing. We should look forward to what comes next from these guys.