Remember the first time you heard Dylan, or Springsteen, or Costello, or Waits? Charlie Wood delivers that same jolt. If, that is, “Flutter and Wow” is the first you’ve heard from the Memphis jazz-blues maestro. Hopefully you already know his astounding nod to Booker T., Sam & Dave, Ray Charles, Al Green, and a host of other pioneers on “R&B-3” and his equally forthright “Somethin’ Else.” If not, “Flutter and Wow” will send you scrambling for as much Wood back catalog as you can unearth.
It will also expose you to the entire breadth of Wood’s brilliance. First, there’s his exemplary taste in songwriters: the best of the best – Costello, Waits, Sexsmith, Cohen, Simon- all covered here. Then there are his own tunes: wry, funny, tack-sharp, intelligent without the slightest hint of condescension, and crafted with the same respect for wordplay as Porter or Frishberg or Mose Allison. There’s also his singular way with a keyboard – any keyboard, whether it’s attached to a Baby Grand, a B3 or a Wurlitzer. Finally, there’s the melting pot of influences that Wood synthesizes. They vary from project to project – his tastes are that catholic – but here they range from deep within the Stax and Atlantic vaults to the growl and moan of Eric Burdon, the otherworldly lilt of Donald Fagen, and the scorched majesty of Kurt Elling.
As a nightcap to this heady brew, Wood ends with “A Song,” a deceptively simple title for a slice of ingenuity involving a saloon song about the death of saloon songs.