John Oates

Good Road to Follow

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John Oates spent several years of the 2010s digging deep into his roots, recording albums that either hearkened back to his folkie beginnings (1000 Miles of Life) or his R&B roots (Mississippi Mile). He takes a different tack on 2014's Good Road to Follow, an ambitious collection of five-song EPs. Purportedly, each of the EPs has its own stylistic theme, but the lines between the three blur easily with the one exception being the first disc, which opens with "Stone Cold Love," a song written and produced by OneRepublic hitmaker Ryan Tedder. Clearly, this is the modern pop EP -- a suspicion underscored by the concluding "High Maintenance," recorded with upcomers Hot Chelle Rae -- but only "Stone Cold Love," with its assaultive digital beats, compressed guitars, and chant-along-stomp feels radio-ready. As soon as it concludes, Oates slips into a smooth groove with the assistance of Americana guitarist Jerry Douglas, and this is a mood he revisits often on Good Road to Follow. All three discs contain their fair share of laid-back, easy-rolling soul grooves -- sometimes assisted by guests like Bekka Bramlett and Wendy Moten, often delivered solo -- which is a nice backdrop for the grittier or bluesier songs, such as the Vince Gill duet "Don't Cross Me Wrong," "Edge of the World," or "Lost in Louisiana." The consistency calls the decision to divide this album into three EPs into question, but this is a satisfying collection of songs, showcasing a John Oates who is growing stronger on his own.

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