Listening to Tim Woods’ album “Vortex” is like a solitary nature walk: The farther you go, the more beautiful things you discover.
This wonderful collection of original songs travels in the area a psychedelic rock. And if the title track feels like a peyote trip, you understand. The record was inspired after Woods visited the desert in Sedona, Arizona.
A Pennsylvanian who cut his professional teeth in Macon, Georgia, Woods was jamming before there were groups called jam bands. But his guitar virtuosity – he picks with his thumb — and respect for blues shines from his sound. A decade ago, he made an album, “The Blues Sessions,” with a litany of noteworthy guest stars (including three songs with Honeyboy Edwards, who played in the early 1930s with “Father of Delta blues” Charley Patton), so obviously the respect is mutual.
As with succinct blues lyrics, Woods’ words are concise, layered atop exploratory, meandering melodies. There are so many gems to be found.
“Vortex” was produced by Bobby Lee Rodgers and the title song has backing vocals from Woods’ sons Derek and Ryan, who both already have the look of rock stars.
From the first beat of the opening song, “Ready,” the album hurtles into a trance groove as Woods’ chants, “I’m always dreaming, dreaming of you.” Woods doesn’t possess a remarkable voice but his singing is spot on and it contains compelling emotion.
“Vortex” is next, a celebration of “swirling centers of energy.” A twisted tree adorns the back cover.
A funky bassline and clean, high guitar notes bounce along on the following track and Edward Abbey has become James Brown. While “Some of Your Love” is a nice song, it feels out of place on this record. Odd to me since Woods seems to appreciate “concept albums” because he’s clearly a Pink Floyd aficionado. Just check out “Sage” for a vintage “Wish You Were Here” flavored instrumental.
After the funky interlude, the fourth track brings back the listener to a blistering Southern rock ‘em, sock ‘em anthem, “Sometimes.”
There’s so much to dig on this record, it’s hard to pick a favorite, so I’ll take two.
I appreciate the wink to John Lee Hooker on “This Mess,” and the quintessential car-driving song “Destination Unknown” (with Paul Hornsby on piano), but “Take Me Away” and “Water is Life” are simply exquisite and brilliant rock ballads. Plenty of people will be happy to discover and cover those tunes.
The Covid crisis has kept musicians off the bandstand but an upshot would be the copious songwriting and record-making that has occurred. There is an abundance of great new recorded music to be found, and “Vortex” is a fine example. The music takes you inward, makes you nod and smile. I hope Tim Woods tours West someday so I can hear him live. I’m always dreaming.
— Tim Parsons
Release: Oct. 23, 2020
Favorite tracks: ‘Take Me Away,’ ‘Water is Life’