Last week we had the pleasure of seeing Joe Pug play at Ballard’s own Tractor Tavern. Joe has grown notably more confident in his stage presence in the year since we saw him in Austin. His band and sound have both changed, but subtly and for the better. By the end of the night, he had us all eating out of his guitar-picking hand.
While it was an absolute delight to hear Joe Pug again, I was perhaps even more excited to discover his tour-mate, Strand of Oaks. This is the stage moniker of Philly-based Tim Showalter, a bearded, lumberjack type with a slow easy smile. Tim introduced himself as an ex-second grade teacher and bus driver who would educate his students with music by Sigur Rós and Mogwai on the way to school. Respect. He then proceeded to drop several J.R.R. Tolkien references. Needless to say, it was love. Sweet nerdy love.
Have a listen to Tim’s gorgeous cover of Joe Pug’s song, “Hymn 101”:
A quick search will tell you that Tim has the kind of past that can either break a person or act as a catalyst for incredible music. Clearly in his case it was the later. However, the personal tragedy that inspired his freshman effort (a disastrous house fire, a broken engagement, homelessness), Leave Ruin, is left well in the past with his newest creation, Pope Killdragon.
On this unique collection, Tim leverages his considerable imagination to combine historical fact with whimsical fiction. On stage, he prefaced the darkly comical “Daniel’s Blues” with: “This is a song about killing John Belushi’s drug dealer.” …Sung from the point of view of Dan Aykroyd, naturally. And then there’s tracks like “Alex Kona”, a fantastical journey full of giant monsters and mothers wailing in the streets. This is immediately followed by “Giant’s Despair”, which can only be described as an epic, doom-metal instrumental. The folkies among you may be surprised than to learn that Strand of Oaks most often draws comparison to Bon Iver. One listen to the track below, however, should explain it.
Still, while it’s easy to laud new artists as the next such-and-such, comparisons to Bon Iver would not do credit to Strand of Oaks’ playfulness and sense of humor. I for one see a future for Strand of Oaks that is as broad and bright as Tim’s voice.
I’ll leave you with the synth-heavy Pope Killdragon opener, “West River”. Have a lovely weekend my darlings!