Songs from the Wood 

Digging for the roots of American music in Zoe’s Garden

Zoe Wood sings like a bird, a black Baptist bird, her fingers Mississippi John Hurt on the strings, while her band, Zoe’s Garden, grooves like a runaway freight train. Take note, Missoula: These are names you will be hearing a lot more of in the near future.

There’s big sound in Zoe’s Garden, American music coming home to itself. The rich earth of finished compost sprouting seeds of many American species of music. Wood belts out the blues like Rory Block, aching like Bonnie Raitt, rough as the high desert Joshua Tree. And she gets down-home like Don Williams in her song ”Can’t See the Stars,” that recalls: “When I was young, my daddy died, we all got dressed in black and everybody cried, I asked my mama if daddy could see God.” Upright bassist Dave Ricci has some serious chops, as does Wood on all six-stringed guitar things with every kind of finger pickin’ widget.

Rock, jazz, reggae—all things America, smooth as butter. That’s right, reggae. Jamaica part of America too, mon. Wood also cites the “Dr. Demento Show” as one of her most important influences. And she comes from Butte, and important outpost in American music. In the early part of this century, Butte was the largest city between Chicago and Seattle. By all accounts, Butte is quite the drinking town, too. Wood saw a lot of musicians pass through the Silver Dollar Saloon: folk, rock, blues, swing, jazz, surf-punk... This spectrum of influences is reflected in their new album, Zoe’s Garden, which is as seamless as it is diverse. Wood’s voice has enough range to go in several directions at once.

I bet Zoe Wood could beep bob a do wop the pants off a statue of the Pope. This is what I think after hearing her sing her cool swing “To the Sea:” “Old songs playing on the radio, I’ll take you with me, no matter where I go, your face has followed me, to the sea.” Yep. Smooth as butter.

The song “Naematoloma” is about a particular genus of yellow mushroom that has two species. One species is poisonous, the other is superbly desirable and inviting. This song played during a “Today” show about morel pickers in the Northwest. A morel picker herself, she was featured in the piece, along with Larry Evans, mushroom daddy of Missoula.

Zoe’s old garden, Blue Solution, used to play the Top Hat every Wednesday for swing dance lessons. Word has it, it was a pretty lively scene, bordering on raunchy. So it should come as no surprise that Zoe’s Garden will have you dippin’ and spinning like courting dervishes.

The Zoe’s Garden CD release party will be held at the Blue Heron Thursday, Dec. 13 at 8 p.m. Rumor has it that Ms. Wood will be busting out some of her favorite frog songs. With Ricci on bass, Roger Moquin on drums, and Ellie Nuno on fiddle, you shouldn’t have to try to hard to have a good time.

You can also get all the information you need about Zoe Wood, Zoe’s Garden, The Hot Tamales (a trio of women she plays with), and guitar lessons, at www.zoewood.com, where you can even follow links to a clip of the “Today Show” spot.

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