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Published: 2006/07/19
by Jesse Jarnow

Gypsum Strings – Oakley Hall

Brah 004

The world already overflows with country-psych albums, so what's another one in the pile? More rustic than The Sadies, less weird than Mystic Chords of Memory, and way groovy, Oakley Hall's third album, Gypsum Strings is a rough-around-the-edges bit of fractalized twang. The opening "Confidence Man" establishes the mood quickly, drums rising beneath deeply fuzzed guitar riffage before barked male/female harmonies deliver the verses over a mostly stripped beat. "The water from my well tastes like oil from a can," they chant, more lonesome than nostalgic.

At times, it seems as if the band is country by genetics only, roots vibes running through their self-presentation like DNA. Though leader Pat Sullivan evokes his moneymaker ("doesn't make a dime") on "Having Fun Again," his crooning comes off more like Stephen Malkmus than Gram Parsons. A cover of the traditional "House Carpenter" recalls fellow New Yorker countrypolitans, Ollabelle, though rocks way harder, balancing on a knife's edge until the band finally lets go with a Zeppelin/White Stripes-like bridge. Still, it is DNA of which they are obviously proud.

There is no mistaking "Bury Your Burden," a quiet banjo roller that could come from one of Sam Beam's more filled out Iron and Wine albums, for anything resembling traditional. Likewise, the go-go stomp of "Lazy Susan" (maybe the album's catchiest track, and best jam) doesn't so much mimic the Flying Burrito Brothers as tip its hat through 30-plus intervening years of punk, indie rock, and the ever-shifting definitions of cool. What's another country-psych album in the pyre? If it's Gypsum Strings, it’s adventurous and engaging and will burn brightly.

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