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Oakes and Smith

Between the Earth and Sky

Review by Gary Hill

I’ve put this EP in the prog section of Music Street Journal. I suppose you could say that it’s more of a folk release. Certainly that element is present, but they do label themselves as “art folk.” I personally find that there is enough prog influence here to consider it as fitting under the progressive rock heading (perhaps the “rock” part doesn’t fit, though). When you also take into account the fact that Jon Anderson guests on the closing track, that element is even more pronounced. Whatever you call it, though, this beautiful music. It’s gentle and often understated. It’s also very compelling.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2016  Volume 2 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
So Beautiful

It would be simple to call this folk music. That would also be overly simplistic. Sure, it has a lot of ties to 1970s soft rock and folk. It also has hints of country music. The multiple layers of vocals, though, along with a fairly complex musical arrangement, land this more in the vein of folk prog. Whatever you call it, though, it’s a rich and powerful piece of music. It really is, “So Beautiful.”

Presence
Piano makes up a lot of the arrangement here. Yet, it also has elements of spacey prog in the mix. There are symphonic strings, too. This is slow, lush and very evocative.
Never Let the Light Die
Now, this song brings some real rock to the table. It still has a lot of that folk prog element at play. Yet, it also wanders toward modern pop rock, too.
Surrender
More of a pop rock and even modern country sound permeates this one. If there is one song here that doesn’t qualify as prog, this is it. That said, it’s still a great piece of music that is very effective.
Closer to Home (featuring Jon Anderson)
In a lot of ways this isn’t that different from the rest of the set. That said, there are elements here that make me think of Jon Anderson’s solo work (beyond his voice). That voice really works well in unison with the other voices here. This is quite a strong cut. In fact, I’d say it’s the best song of the set.
 
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