Strand of Oaks - Hard Love

by Steve Ricciutti Rating:5 Release Date:2017-02-17

Strand of Oaks, the band project of musician and producer Tim Showalter, is ready to release their fifth album, Hard Love. The new effort features an interesting and purposeful blend of heartland guitar rock, stark and raw reflection, and trippy Floyd-esque soundscapes enveloped in a loose and rough-edged package. Giving voice to the musical smorgasbord are lyrics that generate feelings of world-weary introspection, nostalgia, and painful memories.

“Cry” certainly fits one of those descriptors; a whisper of a song, mere piano and breathy voice, taking the unusual perspective of the one who inflicted the pain instead of the victim. It’s a nice twist on the heartbreak ballad, as lump-in-the-throat generating as Johnny Cash’s interpretation of “Hurt.”

“Radio Kids,” a rollicking bit of rear view mirror reflection on the days when radio wielded far more influence, and “Rest of It” are two of the more immediate numbers on the album; loud, fast, and, in the case of the latter, careening on the edge with wicked guitar punctuation.

There are some bits on here that don’t quite work, such as “On the Hill,” a song that would seem to work better with a firmer hand than this album’s thematic approach, thus tightening things up instead of wallowing in excess. Another is the finale, a self-indulgent bit of psychedelic epiphany with the apt title, “Taking Acid and Talking to My Brother” (his brother had a brush with death during the process of making this album). Topically, it seems like a great idea, but falls short in execution.

It’s important to note that Showalter wanted to embrace a lot of different sounds on this album, and he achieved that goal. Whether it makes a comprehensively satisfying listen is another thing altogether. Since his songs come from a deeply personal place, maybe he doesn’t really give a fuck what anyone else thinks. Cheers to integrity, I guess.

Overall Rating (1)

5 out of 5 stars
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