REVIEW: Hearts of Oak Plays Spaced-Out Country on ‘Moves’

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You don’t have to be a lifelong scholar of music to know that Gram Parsons and Flying Burrito Brothers continue to influence musicians even more than 40 years after the death of Parsons. That spacey pedal-steel sound is still incorporated by innumerable bands. On the new album Moves (produced by guitarist Ezra Meredith), Hearts of Oak shows just how much it has been influenced by the music of Parsons.

Nate Wallace has a voice that was made to sing country songs. He also shows that he’s pretty good with words in “Worthless Currency.” He sings, “Words are worthless currency…write ‘em down as poetry, but poetry is dead.” It seems like the sort of words that end up as tattoos. Meanwhile, Barry Walker adds the spacy pedal-steel and J. Leaver and Aron Christensen play a rhythm that is right out of the songbook of slow country songs.

“Easy by the Gun” has a different sound than the songs that precede it – thanks mostly to the harmonica which was recorded in a way that makes it sound distant. The beat is so simple it’s almost primal. You could also describe the beat as trance-like and you wouldn’t be wrong. Overall, this has the feel of a train song (perhaps because the harmonica sounds like it was recorded in a distant boxcar), but it doesn’t have the chugging rhythm.

“Kick the Lights Out” sounds like it could be the title of a punk song. This isn’t a punk song, but it does introduce a bit of chaos. In the instrumental break, the pedal steel moves from mellow to a sort of psychedelic freakout as it swirls around the guitar and the occasional cymbal crash.

With some honky-tonk sounds throughout, this is definitely a country album, but it’s not your typical country album. The band incorporates some droning psychedelic sounds and some dissonance (check out the end of “California for a good example) that you don’t find on anything coming out of Nashville. The result is an album that is well done and enjoyable – especially if you are looking for something other than the standard Nashville sound. Moves was released on November 16 and is available everywhere now. Order your copy at the Deer Lodge Bandcamp page.

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