REVIEW: Mike Oberst “Six Feet of Earth” is Anarchistic Folk, Steeped in Tradition, Yet Fueled with a Punk Attitude


Every now and then and album comes to you somewhat unexpectedly, and proceeds to unequivocally blow your mind. I listen to a really wide swath of music, and at least most recently that phenomenon has really only occurred with music on the heavier or much more eclectic side. Bands like Yob, Ancestors or even Billie Eilish. Those are artists that I find creating and performing music above and beyond the regular norms and expectations. With all due respect, that just doesn’t seem to happen very often in this thing we call Americana, the last few Sturgill and Childers releases notwithstanding. Fairly recently I discovered the DIY movement’s approach to creating music via GemsOnVHS and more particularly, Lost Dog Street Band. Long story, to tell you that’s how I discovered Mike Oberst.

Mike Oberst lives in Cincinnati, Ohio. He’s an urban agrarian at Paper Street Farms and an organizer at Sayler or The Blue Rock Boys. He can play damn near any instrument you hand him, and play it well. I discovered him touring with Lost Dog Street Band as The Tillers opened the show here in OKC. When the opportunity arose for me to review Mike’s upcoming release, I jumped on it. Little did I know that I’d like it quite as much as it turned out I did. Indeed, from my very first listen I knew this was an album with unquestionable impact on me, and one I’d be listening to over and over.

Six Feet Of Earth is a true folk album for a questionable time. In it’s simplest form, what we have here is a collection of traditional songs from Appalachia, Ireland, Scotland and England played on traditional instruments. These songs are work songs, love songs and songs of darkness and murder.

It’s pure. It’s honest and simple, yet at the same time, vast in its complexities. It’s an album that maintains a modern reach while keeping its feet fully grounded. Anarchistic folk, steeped in tradition, yet fueled with a punk attitude. Perhaps it’s those dualities that make it so special. I’ve found myself discovering new highlights and nuances with each subsequent listen, and I really expect that to continue.

Mike Oberst’s Six Feet Of Earth was recorded in Dayton, Kentucky during the cold, early months of 2019 at Candyland Studios by Mike Montgomery who also helped produce the album alongside Oberst. In addition to Oberst’s jaw dropping 18 instruments credited, the album also features Kate Wakefield (cello), Tim Britton (uillean pipes), Tyler Randall (sitar), Maria Carrelli (guitar) and Patti Walker (hammer dulcimer) and Clyde Brown and Jean Dowell on additional vocals. “North Country” was the first track released, but the album is chock full of stunning arrangements, with “Frosty Morn”, Woody Guthrie’s “Gypsy Davy”, the beautiful “Flowers of Edinburgh” and the title track being personal favorites. The album is on Oberst’s own Reggieville Records and will be released on October 12th. It’s refreshing to hear music being played with heart like this. Be sure to check it out.

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