From listening to the opening guitar lick of "Confidence Man," you can tell Gypsum Strings is like no Oakley Hall album before it. The quick-as-lightning distorted guitar and the accompanying bass groove set the tone for the rest of the album -- it's raw, grimy, and immediately striking. On Gypsum Strings, Oakley Hall strays from the alt-country-rock that has taken the center stage on the band's previous studio albums. The twang is still present, but this album, the second to be released by the band in 2006, spends more time experimenting with distortion and muddy tones than the tried and true country sound. But at times, Claudia Mogel's once omnipresent violin is missed, it's there, but, with the exception of the rollicking "If I was in El Dorado," it's not as noticeable as it is on Second Guessing. But where the violin is lacking, the banjo comes in full-force, like on "Bury Your Burden." It's a smooth, gentle song, unique in its melancholy beauty. The banjo steps into the spotlight for a version of a public domain song, "Spanish Fandango." Gypsum Strings is more riff-heavy than their other albums, and Fred Wallace's guitar, especially on "House Carpenter," another public domain song (with a mysterious edge thanks to Rachel Cox's incredible vocals), give this album a unique, eerie, and, above all, loud allure. Where as Second Guessing, released just four months earlier, was largely an upbeat album, Gypsum Strings is far more moody, dark, and ominous. It's slow and brooding just as often as it is vivid and lifting. Gypsum Strings is every bit as excellent as its most recent predecessor, it's just completely different.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Megan Frye