A.L. Wood was a legendary banjo picker, singer, songwriter and bandleader in North Carolina, active with his band The Smokey Ridge Boys along the eastern seaboard states through the ’90s.
He only recorded four albums under his name, and they are treasured keepsakes for those who have them. One, Sing A Bluegrass Song, was re-issued by Rebel in 2011, and that may be the only record of his currently available.
His songs have been recognized, however, as bluegrass classics with several recently re-recorded by today’s top bluegrass artists. Dailey & Vincent included Sweet Carrie on their first album, Rhonda Vincent sang Rhythm Of The Wheels on her All American Bluegrass Girl, and Lorraine Jordan & Carolina did Sing A Bluegrass Song on their Back To My Roots CD.
Now at 77 years old, A.L. doesn’t travel to perform any longer, but his family has picked up where he left off.
A debut album is expected shortly from the Wood Family Tradition, featuring A.L.’s sons Mike on guitar, and Bobby on bass, Mike’s wife Joanie on vocals, their son Jason on mandolin, and his wife Mackenzie on vocals. That’s a lot of Woods! Mike and Bobby had served as Smokey Ridge Boys, as had Jason, so they really are continuing A.L.’s music.
Jason told us this afternoon that one part of his grandfather’s tradition they want to emphasize is original material, and that 9 of the 13 tracks were written within the band.
“We also have a couple of my granddad’s songs that have never been recorded. Better Times is one I found as a kid on an old, blue cassette tape, just him playing guitar and singing the song. Then there’s one he started, called Riding In An Old Freight Train, that my uncle Bobby finished.”
Jason had his own bluegrass career as well before starting up with the Wood Family Tradition, playing with both Audie Blaylock and James King. When he and Mackenzie married, he decided to stop running the road. Before long, his dad mentioned how he missed performing, and Jason told him, “Hey… we play together all the time. Let’s start our own band.”
On the album, the band is supplemented by Van Gallman on banjo, and Billy Hawks on fiddle. They are seeking a full-time banjo picker now.
Here’s a preview of the various tracks, all firmly within the traditional bluegrass sounds.
The CD will be available later this month from the band’s web site, which is currently down for maintenance. They can also be reached through Facebook.