Chris Wood: None The Wiser

“Chris takes a traditional song and has you absolutely gripped…. He makes it really obvious why it is of contemporary relevance. On the flip side, he has managed this magical thing, writing songs on contemporary themes, or putting music to Hugh Lupton’s words, that absolutely fit hand in glove with traditional songs, but are totally modern.” — Ian Anderson

Chris Wood started out as a choirboy and much of his music bears the influence of those years spent with the likes of Bach, Handel, Gibbons and Boyce: he describes the album Handmade Life as “church music with drums.”

Self-taught on guitar and violin, he is a lifelong autodidact — and his independent streak shines through in his composition and studio work. Always direct and unafraid to speak his mind, his song writing has been praised for its surgical clarity. His work is typified by his trust in the space music can create and a gift for lyrical understatement. He cites his major influence as “Anon”.

Throughout his career independence has been balanced by collaboration. The artists he has worked with include Billy Bragg, Andy Gangadeen, Andy Cutting, Jean François Vrod and Hugh Lupton (Wood and Lupton’s “One in a Million” won Best Original Song at the BBC 2 Folk Awards in 2006). Recently he has worked alongside Martin and Eliza Carthy and others in The Imagined Village: “Cold Haily Rainy Night”, performed by Wood and Eliza Carthy, took the award for Best Traditional Song at the Folk Awards in 2008.

He set up R.U.F Records in 1992 and this label continues to carry his catalogue. He also founded The English Acoustic Collective, a movable feast of musicians, writers, photographers and choreographers who look to England’s indigenous arts as their inspiration.

His first solo album, The Lark Descending, was released in 2006 to wide acclaim. “A lyrical, pensive album … possessed of a timeless quality.”

— The Observer Music Monthly

The title stands Vaughn Williams’ English icon on its head — Wood’s songs make no apology for celebrating what he has called the “unofficial” history of the English people.

In 2009 his album, Trespasser, took on the idea of enclosure: spiritual, intellectual, cultural and physical. Billy Bragg writing in The Independent said “Come Down Jehovah, is a measured statement of atheism that puts Dawkins to shame!” Wood went on to receive “Album of The Year” and “Singer of the Year” from BBC Radio Two.

2011 saw the release of Handmade Life. A substantial touring award from the Arts Councoil. Chris formed a band with Drummer Andy Gangadeen along with Cellist Barney Morse Brown and Trombone player, Robert Jarvis. The material clearly stemed from a desire to explore a less human-centered world, and a world more engaged with the actual than the virtual.

2013 sees the release of None The Wiser. Bass and Hammond organ are called in to drive a bunch of much shorter songs off the page and into the world. Again, fiscal and political meltdown feature but in a more robust way. This is almost like a pub band singing hymns and anthems. His 50 date tour with Joan Armatrading at the end of 2012 allowed Chris to evesdrop and observe Britain from coast to coast and many of the songs give testiment to what he encountered.

“Out here in our market towns with our poundshops and our bookies

the Argos catalogue is our tormenter – I saw a young lad and his mum, he all but held her hand as they went into the Army recruiting centre”