Amps for Christ

The Oak in the Ashes

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Popping The Oak in the Ashes into the CD player is like rummaging through an old steamer trunk that hasn't been opened in 50 years: each song is a dusty treasure from another world. The free jazz blowing of the live "Mission Accomplished (for drums, bass, sax, and power drill) could be from Greenwich Village in 1966, the ancient melody and guitar picking of "Cherry Tree Carol" sound transported from the 18th century English countryside, and "Nese 1" and "Nese 2" could be Middle East folk songs from the time of Omar Khayyam. A dozen or more musical styles are showcased in one form or another, from Scottish highland drones ("Scotland the Brave/Ditches" and "Scotland the Brave/Cheeks") to classic rock ballads ("Give/Leave") to beat-style poems ("Fractured" and "Those Thing") to unapologetic noise music ("Prepared Hammond for Five Hands"). Incredibly, Amps for Christ mainman Henry Barnes manages to make this hodgepodge sound terrific as an album. More impressive than his ease in composing in different styles is his ability to find common threads in vastly different musical worlds. The drone of an over-driven electric guitar, for example, works well as a backing texture in a variety of contexts, and various exotic instruments are transported effortlessly from one style to the next. Highly recommended.

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