By: Sarah Moore
Roots rockers Oakley Hall return with I’ll Follow You (Merge), their third album in 18 months. But, their ability to quickly churn out records says nothing about the quality of their recordings. I’ll Follow You has a strong, thick presence, as stable as a redwood in the forest of twang rock and roll. Although their revolving cast of male and female lead vocalists and use of lap-steel (by Fred Wallace) beg the Americana question, Oakley Hall prove that they aren’t just another alt-country group. More indie-rock than country, Oakley Hall span several genres with the usual down home aspects (fiddle, banjo, third-interval harmonies).
Beginning with "Marine Life," the disc takes an unassuming riff and lets it be the sunrise to its day. The two male vocalists, Patrick Sullivan (guitar, organ) and Jesse Barnes (bass), face off, harmonizing on a sunny morning as the song builds with electric guitar effects and repeated lyrical lines. The track empties into go-getter "No Dreams," a determined and inspiring composition featuring dissonant male-female harmonies. One of the disc's highlights, "Rue the Blues," utilizes an electro-Celtic accompaniment while the upbeat, catchy lyrics and melody grasp at the senses. The song heads into a Beatles-esque pseudo-ending, with drummer Greg Anderson (who has since left the band to focus on his restaurant) heading back into the score with a Ringo Starr-ian beat.
A youthful Gillian Welch gets conjured (especially in "No Dreams") in the vocals of Rachel Cox (guitar) and Claudia Mogel (fiddle), who also takes the lead on "Angela," who delivers a successful, ballsy lead turn. Four-part-harmonies against a barely-there acoustic guitar begin "Free Radicals Lament" until Mogel’s fiddle joins with drums and bass to create a heavier folk mixed with old fashioned rock & roll like your parents once knew. Spanning folk ("Free Radicals Lament" and "Take My Hands, We’re Free"), flower child selections with ambient, ethereal guitar and lap-steel (title track) and prog rock guitar feedback ("All the Way Down"), Oakley Hall prove they can take many types of inspiration and add their own signature to create unique co-ed sextet rock.
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