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Patience pays off for Wood fans

By JOHN STIFLER, Daily Hampshire Gazette, Thursday, December 14, 2000

Laura Wood has finally made the CD I've been waiting for, and I think a lot of other people have been waiting for. Titled "South Station Slide," the new MillRiver Records disc combines Wood's best qualities as singer, writer and instrumentalist, and it weaves them together with her less tangible qualities, including a warm spirit that informs, and is informed by, several musical movements of the past two decades.

Twenty years? It's nearly that long since I first saw and heard Wood perform in Northampton, back when she, Jim Vogel, Rich Downs and a couple of other guys had a short-lived band called the Ooray Rhythm Band and played in the late and still-lamented Sheehan's.

(Footnote: Her real name is Laura Anderson, but she took her grandmother's surname to avoid confusion with Laurie Anderson. Fellow Northampton musician Michael Gregory, ne Jackson, can tell you how it feels.)

The term "musician's musician" wore out before I ever got to use it in print, but I'll use it anyway to describe Wood, who, it seems to me, has lent both substance and style to an uncountable number of music projects in the Valley and beyond. She sings beautifully, she plays guitar and percussion beautifully and she writes beautiful songs, but she has only occasionally been the front-person in a band instead of anchoring somebody else's sound, being part of a duo, trio, chorus, you name it. She has played in lots of bands locally, and, getting around a bit, she has played in Paris with former Dan Fogelberg guitarist Tino Gonzales.

Not that her solo gigs have been lost in the shuffle. Her role as a mainstay of the Summit House concert series on the Holyoke Range is nicely recalled by her sweet, gentle EP recording "Summit House." She has also opened for Nanci Griffith and Melissa Ferrick, played at the WGBH "T" Party that commemorated the 100th anniversary of Boston's subway system and performed in assorted festivals including the Rockrgrl Music Conference last summer in Seattle.

In any case, it feels as though this solo CD is long overdue. And yet, as her publicist and manager Bonnie Paddleford said Monday, its timing is good. As Paddleford explained the years that preceded the recording, "Laura waited until she had all the tools. Now her time has come."

Arriving on time, then, "South Station Slide" brings together Wood's layers of musical experience without falling into the trap some debut CDs fall into, namely trying to showcase everything all at once. Here's the voice of the womyn's-festival Wood, successfully pulling off the sort of lyric that would fall flat coming from someone with less practiced delivery ("If you're looking to find someone new/You don't have to look very far"), also the traditional folkie Wood (a zestful version of "The Water is Wide," dedicated to the late Lena Spencer, longtime proprietor of Caffe Lena in Saratoga Springs), also the upbeat instrumental ensemble Wood (the title track, with Chris Devine's excellent electric viola accompanying Wood's six- and twelve-string guitars) and the Valley Wood, remembering Mike's Westview Cafe ("I'm gonna stoke up the DJ/gonna play me some pool").The songs and instrumentals all fit together. What remains now is for you to go hear them.

Wood celebrates the CD with a show Tuesday at the Iron Horse, 7 p.m. $10 advance, $12 at the door.

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