San Francisco acoustic rock from the ’90s
Featuring brothers Jeffrey Pepper Rodgers and Andy Dru Rodgers with Steve Bird and Jay Young
About the album
Heavy Wood is an album ahead of its time, released way past its time—18 years past, to be precise.
Heavy Wood was a young band active in the San Francisco Bay Area in the late ’80s and early ’90s, founded by brothers Dru Rodgers and Jeffrey Pepper Rodgers. Raised on rock, roots, and soul and hooked on acoustic instruments, the Rodgers brothers played unplugged rock long before MTV Unplugged hit the airwaves—though their music was never plugged in the first place. In a later era, they might have been tagged as Americana, indie folk, or a jam band. They just called it Heavy Wood, as explained in the band theme song over a strutting acoustic funk groove:
We are Heavy Wood…
Like an old canoe
Like a butcher block
Like a didgeridoo
Like acoustic rock
At the core of Heavy Wood’s sound were brotherly vocal harmonies and interlocking acoustic guitars—the latter also the focus of Jeffrey’s day job as founding editor of Acoustic Guitar magazine. Predating the current ukulele craze by a good 15 years, Dru employed a uke not for strummy accompaniment but fiery soloing. Steve Bird, with a jazz background that meshed well with Rodgers’ love of Dawg music, anchored the band on upright bass, along with versatile drummer Jay Young on an ever-changing kit of congas, cymbals, and hand percussion.
The group performed at venues around the San Francisco Bay Area, finding their favorite home base at Mill Valley’s legendary club Sweetwater.
In 1993, Heavy Wood set about capturing their sound, recording on ADAT—then a revolutionary new tool for digital multitrack recording at home—in various living rooms and stairwells and at a local project studio. One track was captured Bill Monroe style, with the band circled around a single stereo mic.
The album project wrapped in 1994, the same year when both Dru and Jeffrey became fathers and their lives outside music got a lot busier. The band performed occasionally but the master tape was temporarily shelved, and at the end of the decade Jeffrey moved east. And so the Heavy Wood album sat in storage for years until Dru, at the time playing uke with the world-rock band Kazamoze, had the tracks remastered for this better-late-than-never debut.
In the intervening years, all members of Heavy Wood have remained active with music. In addition to his work with Kazamoze, Dru plays with the band Cahoots and with accordionist Roxanne Oliva and released the solo album Stone from the Sky. Jeffrey, now based in upstate New York, won a grand prize in the John Lennon Songwriting contest for his song “Fly” and has released four solo albums and and two videos teaching his acoustic arrangements of Grateful Dead songs. Jay has played with many bands, including the Webs, Hard Times, HX2, Mystery Cats, Bowling League, Blue Dudes, and Dru’s band Kazamoze. Steve, now based in Sacramento, is currently playing with Proxy Moon and the Liz Ryder Band.
At this writing, plans for a band reunion in northern California are in the works. In the meantime, ladies and gentlemen, introducing…Heavy Wood.