A lot of fans of country music will tell you that they have no use for the poppy country produced in Nashville. They might also think that legends like Willie Nelson are the only ones making classic-country songs. Luckily those country music fans can look to artists like Zephaniah OHora, who is doing his part to keep the spirit of traditional country alive. On his previous album This Highway, he showed some similarity to Merle Haggard in songs that could just as easily have been recorded in the 60s. His new album Listening to the Music was produced by Neal Casal and features a group of veteran musicians playing honest country songs.
The similarity to Merle Haggard is still prominent on this album. It comes through in the melodies, the vocals, and the fact that the lyrics are easy to sing along with. On top of that, in “All-American Singer”, he sings about being a proud American who believes in the principles on which the country was founded. But he does it without being jingoistic. At some point he sings, “they take pride in taking sides, but I’m proud to be an all-American singer.”
It’s clear that OHora is steeped in the sounds of classic country, whether it’s the sound of the pedal steel, fiddle, or honky-tonk piano. If that weren’t enough, the guitar in “When I’ve No More Tears To Cry” sounds a lot like Waylon Jennings. “Ride That Train” is another good example of his knowledge and dedication to classic country music. This song combines western-swing sounds on the guitar with the honky-tonk sounds of the piano.
OHora has a very evocative voice. He makes you feel something whether the melody is a honky-tonk swinger or a ballad. The sound on this album is pure and warm and kind of gives you the feeling of being in the studio as the band worked these songs out. So if you’re one of those people who think traditional country is a thing of the past, rest assured that Zephaniah OHora has taken the torch and carries it proudly. Listening to the Music (Last Roundup Records) will be available everywhere on August 28. Order your copy here.
Zephaniah OHora – guitar, vocals
John Shannon – electric and acoustic guitars
Jon Graboff – pedal steel guitar, resonator
Roy Williams – piano, Wurlitzer
Jeff Hill – electric bass, upright bass
Arthur Vint – drums, congas, percussion
Neal Casal – rhythm electric guitar (11), acoustic guitar (6), backing vocals
Courtney Jaye – vocals (1-6, 11)
Dori Freeman – vocals (4, 6)
Mickey Raphael – harmonica (5)
Norm Hamlet – dobro (12)
Alex Hargreaves – fiddle (8, 9)
Kristen Weber – fiddle (6)
Matt Parker – tenor saxophone (6)
Chris Carmichael – strings (arranged, played, and recorded)
Produced by Neal Casal
Engineered by Aaron Nevezie and Todd Carder
Mixed by Aaron Nevezie
Mastered by Alex De Turk at The Bunker Studios