September sky

Mar 10, 1999 at 12:00 am
Al Oakes is the stuff of local legend. A founding member of the Volebeats, Al left the band about a decade ago and has been pretty much a musical recluse ever since – until now. For this recording, his brother Brian, another ex-Volebeat, and John Nash – who actually just joined the Voles – have ventured into the musical realm of Al Oakes, creating the various pastoral Western vistas, country loneliness and cracked spaciness that frame his melancholy songs of longing. Besides the alienation of failed relationships, Oakes looks to the aliens of the stars, mixing allusions to outer space with more down-to-earth Midwestern imagery. Songs like the reverberating "Space Lake" and the sinuous "Martian Twilight" cast a vaguely psychedelic sheen on Oakes’ perspectives. A couple of songs share similar structures, and the autumnal imagery lends a song-cyclical feel to the record. The arrangements by Brian and Nash impress with their simplicity, recalling the production values and odd moments that David Gilmour brought to Syd Barrett records.

September Sky is a spare yet majestic achievement – hopefully Al Oakes, with his A.N.B. partners, will get out a little more often.

Greg Baise writes about music for the Metro Times. E-mail [email protected].