Featuring former Oneida founder Pat Sullivan, Oakley Hall takes shades of Americana and plays them far more straightforward than could ever be expected from Sullivan’s former outfit. Peppered equally with barn-burners, ramblers and barroom stomp, this album is essentially what you’d expect from your average roots-rock indie band, which ultimately makes it less compelling. The lumbering opener “Hiway” careens with drunken glory along a southern summer road at dusk. It’s nearly an unstoppable force and, in its wake, leaves substantial shoes to fill. The rest of the album never quite lives up to its potential. The penultimate track, “Volume Rambler,” is a near match in length but it evokes its name more than anything else, not cutting a distinctive path through southern rock’s tendency toward aimlessness. Elsewhere, both Sullivan and female vocalist Rachel Cox rely too much on lyrical belligerence and cheap profanity at the expense of emotional depth. Their best moments come when restraint enters their vocabulary on the morose and quiet “Mumbles” and the echoing cover of Buffy Sainte-Marie’s “Cod’ine.” Second Guessing isn’t a bad showing by any means, but deference to that titular inkling the next time around might give the band a more memorable album.
Amish Records: www.amishrecords.com