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MUSIC REVIEW: Oakes And Smith's Between The Earth And The Sky


Folk duo Oakes and Smith bring a technically proficient but ultimately uninspired offering to the table with their new EP Between the Earth and the Sky. The Tyringham, Massachusetts group pull from a familiar bag over the course of these five songs, combining duo vocal harmonies, grand piano, acoustic guitar, strings and light percussion sounds.

These arrangements play the part of contemporary folk, but stop far short of new ground.

Acoustic guitar, piano and cello introduce the EP's lead track "So Beautiful" with promise, drifting evocatively between major and minor harmony. This setup, however, is quickly undermined by a lyric suggesting that "something" is aesthetically pleasing and that it "is moving between the earth and the sky." These opening lyrics set the stage for the entire collection and what follows is a field of view too vast and too vague to communicate anything of true beauty.

Folk music these days may seem woefully outmatched in the "volume wars" of popular music and culture, but folk has also found some steadfast new superheroes. Names like Bela Fleck and Abigail Washburn; Rihannon Giddens and Jason Isbell have swooped over folk's embers and fanned the flames with their very specialized and singular voices.

In contrast, Between the Earth and the Sky is a collection that leans so completely on "folky" tropes that one can't help guessing if their mysterious ephemera is little more than 'a mighty wind.'

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