FAME Review: Hearts of Oak - New England
Hearts of Oak - New England

New England

Hearts of Oak

Available from Amazon.com.

A review written for the Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
by Mark S. Tucker

New England wasn't the way Hearts of Oak's front man, Nate Wallace (gtr., vox), envisioned things turning out, not at all, but once engineer Ezra Meredith got done with the process, Nate was stunned, stating "I never heard my songs like this when I wrote them, and to hear your own songs new to you, it's incredible!" I don't know what the composer had in mind originally, but what's documented here is more than good enough no matter what he'd first envisioned. How to pigeonhole it, though, is a tad difficult. I guess the best attempt would be Appalachian-folk-redneck-sodbuster-moderne…but don't quote me on that.

I mean, this takes even The Band backwards, up into the hoots 'n hollers, deep into time-lost Texas protectorates, maybe even Daniel Boone territory…except the disc possesses a potpourri of subtle and then not-so-cryptic compositional nuances portaling rustic imprints of a futurity that's a couple days past tomorrow (f'rinstance, what the hell are those cool-ass Radiohead insertions doing there in Grey Riders, y'all?…but, man, they really work well). 'Somber', 'sober', 'depressed', and 'yearning' hardly begin to describe the atmospherics as Wallace's Mayberry-gone-to-Hell voice plaintively rings out behind a hangin' judge from the county seat.

Now that I research these blokes a bit, Hearts of Oak used to be a druggy, psychedelic, shoegaze country band (cool!), and, yeah, that kinda comes through in echoes and understructures, but, yow, what a transformation! One can see why Wallace was knocked sideways when he heard the final mixdowns. I can't recall of a single record quite like this but wouldn't be at all surprised to see Barney Fife, Ant Bee, Goober, and Ange sitting around the back of Floyd the Barber's shop, toking a spliff they got off some consarned city kids passing through and laying an ear to New England, talking about pink talking possums and moonshine stills sprouting legs and walking around the countryside. Yep, New England is that off-the-wall and that fascinating, a blend of the old, the new, the mundane, the quietly psychotic, all blended into the creepy strangeness we experienced while watching Deliverance…this time with a good deal more Twin Peaks.

Track List:

  • Used to It Now
  • Goldmine
  • Trouble Your Mind
  • Lovers Ain't Easy
  • Grey Riders
  • New England
  • Wants You Close
  • Tunnels
  • Well Lit Highway
No songwriting credits given, but I'm guessing, judging by his quote, Nate Wallace wrote all the tracks.

Edited by: David N. Pyles

Copyright 2014, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
This review may be reprinted with prior permission and attribution.
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