Among the Oak & Ash: Among the Oak & Ash

By: Cat Johnson

A really good song, one that stands the test of time, at some point transcends simply being a song and becomes a part our history and culture. We call on these songs in times of joy, sorrow, love and pain. They help us to connect with ourselves and each other.

I'm a big fan of American roots music. I've heard countless versions of hundreds of different traditional songs and I'll tell you the new self-titled album from Among the Oak & Ash stands up among my favorites. They have taken some undeniably great songs including "The Water is Wide" and "Peggy-O," rolled them around their own very capable musical minds and redelivered them with passion, grace and style.

Among the Oak & Ash was formed when solo artist Garrison Starr joined Josh Joplin to help him fulfill his vision of recording some of the tunes that had profoundly influenced him. The goal of the project, however, was not to try to recreate the old-timey sound but to bring these songs through as they are today, being faithful to the songs without treating them like museum pieces.

The songs that the duo chose demonstrate the timelessness of a great tune and the inescapable nature of human emotion. They also bring forth a new spirit, tapping into elements of the lyrics and melodies that are as meaningful and beautiful today as they were when they were written, all those years ago.

Two of the album's twelve songs, "Joseph Hillstrom 1879-1915" and "High, Low and Wide," were written by Joplin, ten of them are traditional and one, "Bigmouth Strikes Again," is a last-track bonus, recognizable to fans of '80s pop as a hit single for The Smiths.

This album will find fans among the folk and roots faithful, but it is also destined to be a great introduction to traditional music for the pop and neo-songsmith crowd, revealing to them the depth and genius behind these deceptively simple, age-old treasures.

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[Published on: 8/10/09]

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