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Second Serving

Tom Wood's sophomore solo album, 2, showcases the St. Louis songwriter's versatility

The disc closes with the first song recorded for it. Touring New England in 1998, Wood put 3,000 miles on a rental car in two weeks. "I was sitting in my room one night, and I just started writing about the road and all these miles I was racking up," he says. "You're there on the road, alone, and that's how the song "The Road, the Hungry and the Wild' begins. That was the first song I wrote on this collection.

"I knew that I didn't want it to be a folk song; I didn't want it to be a rock song or a country song. I thought, we gotta make this one a little more open, more of a listening experience than the first album, which was just "Here's Tom and his guitar.'"

Wood assembled a sort of personal dream team to record the song, including Crawford, bassist Larry Kornfeld and drummer Gary Sykes ("the best drummer in St. Louis," according to Wood).

Although it may run a little long at more than eight minutes, "The Road, the Hungry and the Wild" does build an impressively dense sonic atmosphere, thick with the "mystery" Wood was hoping to achieve. "I just had this trumpet thing in my head, this muted trumpet that's just smoky and dark," he Wood. Vocalist Rebecca Ryan adds a nonverbal backing part. "It's not so much a harmony vocal as a voice that's part of the music, mysterious because the road is mysterious."

2 bears the mark of a seasoned veteran fully at ease in what he's doing. The careful songwriting, the imaginative production, the willingness to stretch to reach lofty goals -- Wood has clearly learned a thing or two in his day. Foremost of those lessons seems to be: Work your ass off. Wood recently launched Mongo Mon Productions as his own promotional agency and can be found in his office late into most nights.

An extravaganza at Off Broadway on Friday, Jan. 5, will feature Wood with the Extra Large Band, a rotating crew of friends. "It could be anywhere from six people to a dozen people on the stage at one time," he says. "I'm really looking forward to the upcoming show because Off Broadway is going to lend itself to a really interesting evening.

"There will be lots to listen to and lots to observe. We're gonna have some projections happening, some loops happening. We're billing it as a unique concert experience. Come with an open mind."

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