ACL Review: Strand of Oaks
Sadcore singer-songwriter rides a Crazy Horse
By Michael Toland,
9:55AM, Mon. Oct. 5, 2015
Philadelphia’s Timothy Showalter, aka Strand of Oaks, doesn’t look like the sensitive troubadour of his early albums. Sporting long hair, a bushy beard, sleeveless black t-shirt, and numerous tats, he calls to mind Steve Earle circa Copperhead Road.
Like his forebear, Showalter made a similar move away from folk introspection to more widescreen rock for latest disc Heal, a modern rock LP pitched somewhere between My Morning Jacket and the War On Drugs. That wasn’t what he presented to an eager audience waiting patiently for a set pushed late by the prior act running over. Fronting a fourpiece with second guitar replacing synth, Showalter elbowed subtlety aside and stomped straight into Crazy Horse territory.
After a few seconds of psychedelic grunge noodling, the quartet blasted into “Heal” with the finesse of a rhino. Upbeat singalong anthem “Goshen ’97” brought a big smile to Showalter’s mug and enough distortion to make a stoner metal band proud. The clap-a-long “For Me” and formerly moody “Shut In” bordered on brutal, while “Plymouth” somehow kept its album atmosphere without stinting on power.
The ex-acoustic “Sterling” roared through soaring breaks, but that was just warm-up for “JM,” a grunge anthem modeled in tempo, tone, and solos on Neil Young’s “Cortez the Killer.” Showalter expresses a lot of sadness and confusion in his songs, but there was no misery here – only joyful catharsis. “You gotta heal!” he proclaims.
This was healing through fire.