Discovering a shared love of US folk idioms, solo performers Josh Joplin and Garrison Starr joined forces to create Among the Oak & Ash.
They're a folk-rock duo whose blending of traditional folksong, male and female harmonies, rock grooves and astringent electric guitar resembles a transatlantic Fairport Convention. Sometimes the equivalence is bluntly direct – "Shady Grove" is clearly an Americanised "Matty Groves", albeit done with urgency rather than the implacability Fairport brought to the material. The Appalachian ballad "Hiram Hubbard" is a classic miscarriage of justice, while both "Come All You Young & Tender Ladies" and "The Housewife's Lament" offer cautionary advice to naive girls, the housewife's claim that "life is toil, and love is trouble" effectively summarising the attitude of most traditional songs. But the slave lullaby "All the Pretty Little Horses" and spiritual "Angel Gabriel" lend the duo's work a decisive African-American influence. A cover of The Smiths' "Bigmouth Strikes Again" doesn't sit too comfortably among the traditional material, but at its best – notably the rolling momentum of "Peggy-O" – there's an engaging charm to the album that's hard to resist.
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