Among The Oak & Ash

Among The Oak & Ash

Verve/Universal, 2009

REVIEW BY: Duke Egbert


Pop music is, at its heart, merely what the common people are singing and listening to at a given point in time. Delta blues, ragtime, and the music of the Appalachians were in their time pop music. There is a single unbroken chain of melody that runs backwards through our history -- and the musicians who remember it tend to, at least in my opinion, be the ones that are the most fun to listen to.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

So I was excited when Josh Joplin and Garrison Starr, both of whom have been reviewed on the DV before, decided to get together and record an album of traditional  and traditionally-styled music. Calling themselves Among The Oak & Ash, they have recorded a melodic, brilliantly-performed, and moving CD of timeless music.

From the present, ATOAA presents "Joseph Hillstrom 1879-1915," a tribute to the turn of the century labor leader Joe Hill, and the deeply mournful "High Low And Wide." "Hillstrom" is a tough row to hoe -- Joan Baez' iconic performance of Earl Robinson's "Joe Hill" being one of the highlights of Woodstock -- but Joplin and Garrison handle it with grace and panache, making the song a more upbeat tribute to Hill's life. Joe Hill historically had a sense of humour and joie de vivre; that comes out in the sheer energy of "Hillstrom." As a counterpoint, "High Low And Wide" is a deeply touching song about grief and survival.  

Add in the traditional songs and ATOAA is a powerful statement. Joplin and Garrison nail "Hiram Hubbard," "Peggy-O," and "Angel Gabriel," and sing "All the Pretty Little Horses" sweet enough to put a baby to slumber. If I have one quibble with the songs, it's that "Come All You Young And Tender Ladies" ends abruptly; I thought it was just an introduction, but suddenly the song was over and I was left wanting more. A minor consideration at best. When you add in the hidden track at the end -- I'm not saying what it is -- it proves that pop music is pop music, regardless of the era.

Among The Oak & Ash is an elegant and effective proof that good music is timeless; that it exists in all times; and that Josh Joplin and Garrison Starr continue to be brilliant musicians who are also true to themselves. I recommend it highly.

Rating: A

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 2009 Duke Egbert and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Verve/Universal, and is used for informational purposes only.