Jimson aka Jimpson aka Gypsum weed, commonly found on the slopes of North Carolina, is a legal psychoactive plant with a very long and unpleasant high. According to everyone's favorite fount of information, Wikipedia, the weed got its name "from the town of Jamestown, Virginia, where British soldiers were secretly drugged with it (in their salad), while attempting to stop Bacon's Rebellion. They spent several days chasing feathers, making monkey faces, generally acting like lunatics, and indeed failed at their mission." What happens to an electric-string-and-harmony-based roots rock band that dallies with this black tabacky? Feather chasing, monkey faces and mission accomplished.
Long regarded as one of the best live acts in New York, Oakley Hall has finally delivered on the promise of its collective talent and the energy of its live shows with the masterpiece Gypsum Strings, their second full-length record of 2006 (!) and their first on Brah Records. While the first, Second Guessing, established Oakley Hall as one of the premier roots rock bands in the land, Gypsum Strings, turns the volume way up and the traditions on their heads.
Springing from 60's west coast legends like the Byrds, the Flying Burrito Bros., the Charlatans and Moby Grape, adding elements of X, Neu, the Feelies, Mercury Rev and Fairport Convention, Gypsum Strings finds Oakley Hall refusing the dictates of stale No-Depression-era norms. Guitarists Fred Wallace and Pat Sullivan and amplified fiddler Claudia Mogel trade leads with abandon on "Confidence Man" and "LazySusan" and shred together like the illest of string bands on "If I Was In El Dorado" and "House Carpenter". Cutting through the dense arrangements are powerhouse harmonies. Rachel Cox emerges as the Blue Ridge amalgam of Sandy Denny and Linda Ronstadt while Pat Sullivan's gravelly baritone anchors it all in Johnny Cash and John Doe territory. The sextet's trademark killer songwriting chops are in evidence as Gypsum Strings boasts some beautiful ballads that temper the heaviness like "Living in Sin in the USA", "Nite Lights, Dark Days" and "Bury Your Burden". Yeah Yeah Yeah Brian Chase makes his recording tabla debut on the latter. All told Gypsum Strings cements Oakley Hall's rep as luminaries of the new psych-roots movement. They look to the past to make modern music striking in its originality.
Gypsum Strings was recorded by Barry London (Oneida, Broke Revue) in two three or four day sessions at the Sunset Grill in Brooklyn in late 2005. "Bury Your Burden" was recorded by Andrew Deustch (Home, Fireball). Oakley Hall are expats from all over the American south and northeast currently living in Brooklyn, NY. Pat Sullivan co-founded Oneida in 1997 and left to form Oakley Hall in early 2002. Drummer Greg Anderson was the driving beat behind Dan Melchior's Broke Revue, Holly Golightly, and Windsor for the Derby (among many others). Oakley Hall has recently toured with the Constantines, Oneida and the Roger Sisters. They have also opened for the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. The artwork for Gypsum Strings was designed and executed by Maya Hayuk.
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