Indie roots band the Woodshedders, out of Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, regaled Washington DC’s Hill Country BBQ last Friday night with their unique roots music blend of gypsy jazz, Old Time, Country, rhythm & blues, and bluegrass. “We love all kinds of music,” the Woodshedders say, “so that’s what kind we play.” Beginning their first of two sets at 9:30, the Woodshedders played until midnight, delivering an absolutely packed show of original music and covers.
The five-piece band—Dwayne Brooke on guitar and vocals, Randy Ball on bass and vocals, Jesse Shultzaberger on drums, David Van Deventer on fiddle and vocals, and Jacob Smith on keyboards and saxophone—originally formed out of a weekly gypsy jazz gig in Harpers Ferry, has expanded its scope while remaining true to its roots. They played an instrumental tune entitled “January 23rd,” the upcoming date of what would be the 100th birthday of the legendary gypsy jazz guitarist Django Reinhardt. Showing the range of their influences, the Woodshedders similarly honored the great folk singer Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, and included a song by highly influential multi-instrumentalist and songwriter John Hartford.
The Woodshedders excel as instrumentalists, and have something of a jam band reputation. Later in the first set, the Woodshedders played another instrumental, the epic “Road to Berryville,” (“aka route 7 or 340,” quipped Brooks) from their latest album, Talisman. The plurality of the evening’s songs, like “Diamond Ring,” came from the record.
The Woodshedders released their most recent album, Talisman, in 2017. In a noticeable shift from the band’s earlier work, on Talisman Brooks and Mayo play electric instruments on several tracks. Dwayne smiled at me and nodded when I told him that I enjoyed this album’s addition of more rock & roll elements to the band’s music.
The Woodshedders released their first album, Catch That Yardbird, 2009, to critical acclaim. Just Plain Folks named Catch That Yardbird Roots Album of the Year, and SoundStage! Network’s listed it as one of its Top 10 Albums of 2009.
The Woodshedders play frequently at Hill Country and other DC venues. The band appeared last month at Gypsy Sally’s with Bearcat Wildcat. They appear locally often enough that some of their songs have a connection to our area—and even to this venue. David mentioned that he wrote “Honky Tonk Buddy” after a show here at Hill Country. The band further acknowledged their honky tonk influences with a cover of Dwight Yoakam’s “Guitars, Cadillacs, Etc.” that drew raucous response from the crowd.
On the back stretch of their second set, the Woodshedders played three original songs, beginning with “Connie Chung.” “We have the utmost respect for Connie Chung,” Van Devanter emphasized. The Woodshedders then finished their second set, closing the evening with covers of the Doors’ “Riders on the Storm” and Johnny Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues.”
The Woodshedders put on a heck of show. They get the crowd shaking their stuff, and they can really play. Check ’em out next time they come around.