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Second Guessing

Oakley Hall

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Album Review

The first of two albums to be released by Oakley Hall in 2006, Second Guessing takes the band's exploration of American roots music to an entirely different level, with a fuller, richer sound, catchy, intriguing songwriting, and Pat Sullivan and Rachel Cox's harmonies putting it far above the band's self-titled debut and many of the band's peers. The pair's vocals both take center stage, unlike, say, Fleetwood Mac, a band that Oakley Hall often is compared to simply because of the rotating songwriters and the male and female vocals. Sullivan and Cox blend their voices together over the upbeat "Hiway" and "Eyes, Lock & Steel," a song that's hauntingly beautiful in both its music and lyrics. As strong as the band's vocals are, however, they're almost outshined by Claudia Mogel's fiddle (check out "Light of My Love") and Fred Wallace on electric guitar, lap steel, and banjo. The twang of Wallace's guitar gives "Adalina Roselma Lapage" a down-home feel as Sullivan's vocals go from an off-key, lazy ramble to a weary howl over the line "If the bad news is true, it's probably about you." One of the best aspects about Oakley Hall is the band's songwriting, which is split between members. Second Guessing is no exception. Sullivan, who writes much of the band's material on the album, is an exceptional lyricist; he concentrates on storytelling, which adds to the band's charm. His perfectly imperfect vocals recount the story of a distant ancestor who wound up at the gallows pole in "Landlord": "Sewed into his collar/A rigid iron chain/They hung him unsuccessfully and had to try again/The third time like the first/They waited for him to jerk/The rope it gave his lungs did not, and he wound down a free man in the dirt." At times, Oakley Hall's sound is a bit nostalgic, occasionally reminiscent of Neil Young or the Rolling Stones' Let It Bleed, but the band never lives in the shadows of '60s and '70s rock. Instead, they take these influences and add a youthful flair that yields a sound that's more refreshing than it is retro. The group takes traditional country instruments and adds depth, versatility, and a fresh attitude. Oakley Hall's music spans genres and is easy to fall in love with. It's this balance of authenticity and indie rock appeal that makes Second Guessing a great listen for country fans as well as those who "like all types of music — except country."

Biography

Formed: 2002 in Brooklyn, NY

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '00s

When Oneida's Pat Sullivan left the band in 2001, he wanted to try something a little more country. He formed Crazee & Heaven, but it was a short stint. Sullivan wasn't defeated, however; he gathered some of his Crazee & Heaven bandmates — drummer Will Dyar, bassist Jesse Barnes, and fiddle player Claudia Mogel — to form Oakley Hall. Podunks songwriter Steve Tesh, banjo player Fred Wallace, vocalist Leah Blessoff, and guitarist Ed Kurz completed the lineup by 2002. A year later,...
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Second Guessing, Oakley Hall
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