Straight out of Massachusetts come the folk duo of Oakes and Smith. The duo's latest EP is called Between the Earth and the Sky, a peaceful collection of folk tunes reminiscent of Simon and Garfunkel. Vocal responsibilities rest on Katherine Smith, while her partner, Robert, provides instrumentation and delightful harmony backup.
The EP contains five tracks. Track one is the serene 'So Beautiful', which begins with violin, piano and Katherine's impressive vocals. Featuring sublime harmonies, the tempo of the tune is slow and deliberate, setting the stylistic mood for the EP.
Next up is 'Presence', another meandering tune with a smooth and umbral melody that works well. The song displays an easy intimacy, along with once again superb harmonies. Oakes' voice is the perfect complement to Katherine's appealing vocals, which are tantalizing and sweet. It should be noted that Katherine's vocals are light and distinctive, but she is not what most would describe as a "strong female vocalist". But don't let that qualification put you off. Her voice is grand in a parochial sense.
The third track, 'Never Let The Light Die', injects a pop influence, with an upbeat tempo. This injection, almost a discordant element compared to the other songs on the EP, is a nice complement to what might have been an over-civilized collection of tunes. And although the song rests on a mainstream, popular melody, it remains true to the folk genre. The melody flows easily and the harmonies are exquisite. Imagine the Beach Boys covering Simon and Garfunkel and you have the idea. Good stuff!
Simply because of its pop influence, 'Never Let The Light Die' is the best song on the EP, for it demonstrates the range of the duo and their ability to step out of the tried and true. In fact, it saves the EP from redundancy.
The final two tracks return to the slow, sugary charismatic feel of the first two tracks. The final track, 'Closer to Home', features Jon Anderson of Yes fame. That alone makes the tune worth listening to. Anderson's voice adds an acceptable restraint and tarnish to the song, simply because it provides imperfect harmony to Katherine's.
Overall, Between the Earth and the Sky is a solid effort that should appeal to fans of soft folk rock that encompasses just a hint of SoCal influence.
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