Most bands would content themselves with one strong release a year, but this Brooklyn sextet has already released two of 2006's best efforts, Gypsum Strings and Second Guessing. Joining national summer and fall tours with Calexico, the Constantines, and M. Ward, Oakley Hall is one of this year's breakout bands. Ex-Oneida member Pat Sullivan formed the group in 2002, and the present lineup solidified in 2004, electrifying Big Apple crowds with its high-energy, rough-and-tumble country rock.
Oakley Hall's powered by the soaring harmonies of Sullivan and female foil Rachel Cox, calling to mind John Doe and Exene Cervenka of X during their country-punk heyday. Guitarist Fred Wallace tears off six-string runs worthy of Crazy Horse, and Claudia Mogel's fiddle adds an old-school Appalachian vibe to the occasional banjo, lap-steel, and saloon-piano accents. But this is no retro museum piece; Oakley Hall's songs pulse with menace or liquored-up campfire joy. Sullivan's lyrics dissect modern relationships with scalpel-like insight -- "you're cutting loose/I'm getting tight/I'm going down in a blaze tonight" -- made all the more powerful for their elemental nature. Oakley Hall's an adrenaline shot to the comatose body of country rock, a bracing antidote to the legions of stale Americana acts.