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Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
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Castle Talk
Don Giovanni
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
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The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
The Null Corporation
Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
Halcyon Digest
No Age - Everything in Between
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Everything in Between
Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
The Walkmen - Lisbon
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Fat Possum
Oakley Hall
I'll Follow You

Rating: 7.8/10 ?

January 17, 2008
In this day and age, legitimate vintage guitar sounds are certainly hard to come by. The crisp edge that comes with a natural electric guitar rarely appears with equal emphasis on melodic expression. The "dirty" sound seemed so common in the best rock of the 1970s, yet even those axemen with a clear hankering for the classics seem reticent to dirty up these days. It's a sound so easy and malleable that it seamlessly melds with folk instruments, yet can also firmly place an album in the rock category.

It is with this formidable tool of dirtiness that Oakley Hall lead singer Pat Sullivan frames I'll Follow You, and his loyalty to the vintage sound is what ultimately makes, not breaks, the record. Obviously, Sullivan's time in Oneida spills over into Oakley Hall, injecting a particular rocky edge into the tunes of I'll Follow You; there are some great vestiges of his previous life as a post-experimental rock guitarist in a "folk" band. Sullivan's grizzled expression and 70s long hair seems incongruous in some ways, yet he is undeniably the lifeblood of Oakley Hall, ripping into riff after riff of great tunes alongside Claudia Mogel's fiddle and an occasional banjo. At it's best moments I'll Follow You harkens back the Neil Young's classic Comes a Time.

Sullivan's first solo song (he often shares singing duties with co-vocalist Rachel Cox) finds him filling his dual role perfectly. His nasal voice and arpeggiated guitar on "Rue the Blues" build a rollicking, rambling style, with Cox's vocals sounding great in second chair. In the deceptively quiet introduction to "Free Radicals Lament," Cox and Sullivan split vocal duties before Sullivan takes over on the verse, with Cox providing the vocal baseline, and the track promptly opens up as the instruments take hold, fiddle and guitar playing off each other in natural country harmony. The song makes great use of Oneida's trademark: repetition.

Alas though, not all of the record plays through like Young's "Human Highway," and there's a weak point that sticks out like a sore thumb, namely Cox's solo tunes. While perhaps passable in their own setting, within the confines of I'll Follow You they fail to come across as anything more than a shallow attempt to take the spotlight off Sullivan. Cox's contributions as a dual vocalist (especially on choruses) and as a harmonizer lend credence to the 70s country-rock aesthetic, but on her own her songs fail to draw the attention away from Sullivan's much stronger contributions. Cox's vocals, while pitch perfect for accompaniment, lack the edginess and likable quality of Sullivan's needed for the lead, as if she's just a folky stuck in a rock band. Her tune "First Frost" sounds out of place entirely on I'll Follow You, all mopey and with an attempt at poignant, weighty lyrics that simply aren't. As Cox sings, "How I wish it were Indian summer/ And then this drama would burn away," it's no more exciting with the harpsichord and cello behind it.

If Sullivan's tracks weren't so strong, perhaps Cox's contributions wouldn't seem so disappointing. Even so, they're certainly not enough to sink this ship. Sullivan's electric guitar work and riffs blend so well with his vocals that Cox's songs often fade from memory until its time to skip past them again. The band seems powerful at their best moments, but may yet be too tentative to really grab hold of their own work. Cox has a marvelous voice for harmony but Sullivan lends the band its 70s rock quality, something that today's indie rock needs more of. Hopefully there will be a shift further towards Sullivan's material on the next record, but in truth, with such a great guitar riffs, I'll take Oakley Hall any way I can get 'em.

Reviewed by Jeff McMahon
No biographical information is currently available.

See other reviews by Jeff McMahon



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