14 Songs, 42 Minutes

EDITORS’ NOTES

Josh Joplin and Garrison Starr have enjoyed a measure of success as solo singer/songwriters, but their debut as the duo Among the Oak & Ash suggests they may want to combine their talents permanently. This mostly-traditional folk collection is a lean, tightly focused effort that finds new vitality within even the most familiar tunes. Somewhat in the mode of Billy Bragg, Joplin and Starr bring out the relevance in time-honored ballads like “Hiram Hubbard,” “Peggy-O,” and “The Housewife’s Lament.” There’s a hint of early R.E.M. in their crisply rocking treatments of “Joseph Hillström 1879-1915” and “Angel Gabriel.” Though they sing in close harmony for much of the album, each gets moments in the spotlight – Joplin turns in a tender reading of “Pretty Saro,” while Starr shows some unexpected bite on “Come All You Young & Tender Ladies.” “High, Low & Wide,” an original, carries the pang of a classic Appalachian lament. A rambunctious remake of the Smiths’ “Bigmouth Strikes Again” proves oddly successful. Within these tracks is the sense of two veteran artists getting in touch with something primal and honest.

EDITORS’ NOTES

Josh Joplin and Garrison Starr have enjoyed a measure of success as solo singer/songwriters, but their debut as the duo Among the Oak & Ash suggests they may want to combine their talents permanently. This mostly-traditional folk collection is a lean, tightly focused effort that finds new vitality within even the most familiar tunes. Somewhat in the mode of Billy Bragg, Joplin and Starr bring out the relevance in time-honored ballads like “Hiram Hubbard,” “Peggy-O,” and “The Housewife’s Lament.” There’s a hint of early R.E.M. in their crisply rocking treatments of “Joseph Hillström 1879-1915” and “Angel Gabriel.” Though they sing in close harmony for much of the album, each gets moments in the spotlight – Joplin turns in a tender reading of “Pretty Saro,” while Starr shows some unexpected bite on “Come All You Young & Tender Ladies.” “High, Low & Wide,” an original, carries the pang of a classic Appalachian lament. A rambunctious remake of the Smiths’ “Bigmouth Strikes Again” proves oddly successful. Within these tracks is the sense of two veteran artists getting in touch with something primal and honest.

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About Among The Oak & Ash

Among the Oak & Ash are a duo consisting of the established singer/songwriters Josh Joplin and Garrison Starr. Joplin, based in New York, and Starr, in Nashville, met while on the road performing their solo music. At Joplin's suggestion, they got together to record an album of traditional folk music. The eponymous album was completed in six days, without any label affiliation having been set. Verve Forecast then stepped in to pick it up, and Among the Oak & Ash was released on June 16, 2009, while the duo was embarked on a spring tour to promote it. ~ William Ruhlmann

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