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Review: The Poison Oaks, Pine

The Poison Oaks
[Cortese Music (2011)]

The Poison Oaks is a talented, 14- member collective that includes famed drummer Dave Mattacks and singer-songwriter Jennifer Kimball. Founder and lead singer Laura Cortese has an ethereal voice very suitable to the alt-pop on the way-too-brief Pine. She makes it sound quite effortless as she breezes through the frenetic title track, and floats amid the deceptive calm that drifts into, and out of, measured cacophony on “Tragedy.” But in fact there is extraordinary thought and care in each cut. Geniuses from the past are skillfully referenced, while The Oaks’ maintain their clear cut sonic fingerprint.

It’s no mystery where the influence comes from for the subtle “Being For The Benefit Of Mr. Kite!” ambiance on the bright “Ninety;” or for “London Devil,” which has glorious California beach harmonies at its core. And the heavenly fade out on “Bright Lights” is reminiscent of Mark Knopfler’s strikingly beautiful “Why Worry.” The air of experimentation comes from the use of farfisa and moog, and the creative playing of piano, guitar, and banjo. I guess it’s still acceptable to use the “olden-days” parlance and describe the 5-song Pine as an EP. No matter. It would of course be more appropriate to focus on Pine’s content and simply call it a sublime example of doing it right.

Ellen Geisel (Ballston Lake, NY)

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