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Strand of Oaks is ready to transform on “Weird Ways” from new Eraserland LP

Strand of Oaks | photo by Alysse Gafkajen | courtesy of the artist
Strand of Oaks | photo by Alysse Gafkajen | courtesy of the artist

There’s an air of finality in the opening notes of Strand of Oaks‘ new single “Weird Ways,” as frontman Tim Showalter very plainly and directly sings “I don’t feel it anymore.”

Set to warm, close-mic’d acoustic guitar, with his robust baritone upfront in the mix, this is the intimate and vulnerable Showalter we hear once a year at the Boot & Saddle Winter Classic; it’s the Showalter of back-catalog songs like “Kill Dragon” and “Sister Evangeline.” And it’s a Showalter who, as he was writing, clearly felt out of place with the direction his music traveled versus the direction the music world was heading.

“The scene isn’t my scene anymore.”

This is the way that Strand of Oaks’ just-announced sixth album Eraserland begins, and a glance over song titles like “Final Fires” — or knowing the song “Keys” from his live set, where he sings “we should just run away” to his wife Sue — seem to paint a picture of somebody ready to move on.

But then a snare drum downbeat kicks in. And the realization hits — we’re not going anywhere just yet. Continue reading →

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The High Key Portrait Series: Strand of Oaks

Strand of Oaks | photo by Josh Pelta-Heller for WXPN

High Key” is a series of profiles conceived with the intent to tell the story of Philly’s diverse musical legacy by spotlighting individual artists in portrait photography, as well as with an interview focusing on the artist’s experience living, creating, and performing in this city. “High Key” will be featured in recurring installments, as the series seeks to spotlight artists both individually and within the context of his or her respective group or artistic collective.

It was by luck of the draw that Tim Showalter became a Philadelphian. Having spent his childhood in his hometown of Goshen, Indiana, the Strand Of Oaks frontman was sold on Philly by a childhood friend of his who’d already pioneered the relocation, and to hear Showalter tell it, it hardly even feels adopted, anymore.

He makes reference to that several times, in a recent interview with us, effusive in his affection for all he feels Philly has been able to offer him over the past decade and a half here. Wearing his beard long and his lumberjack coat red, Showalter reminisced warmly about wandering the Wissahickon, building out his band, getting to see Philly legend Jack Rose play hallowed local stages like Brenda’s — and then, with a sense of genuine gratitude, the good fortune of getting to later play them himself.

Showalter also talks “Winter Classic”: a lineup of several consecutive Strand Of Oaks shows that launches tonight at Boot And Saddle. On deck this week to celebrate a fourth year of these gigs with him are folk-singer Joe Pug, and My Morning Jacket’s Carl Broemel. Continue reading →

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The Week Ahead: Strand of Oaks, Ivy Sole, Mavis Staples, Swearin’ and more

Ivy Sole at SXSW | photo by Rachel Del Sordo for WXPN | racheldelsordophotography.com

From alt rock heros to rising stars in hip-hop, a Philly favorite taking over three nights at Boot and Saddle in South Philly, while a soul queen posts up for two nights at World Cafe Live in University City. And the time of year being what it is, there are not one, not two, but three holiday shows on the calendar this week. Here are 16 concerts to see in the next seven days all around Philadelphia.  Continue reading →

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Strand Of Oaks’ Winter Classic IV features guests Joe Pug and My Morning Jacket’s Carl Broemel

Strand of Oaks | photo by John Vettese for WXPN

In what’s become something of a Philly tradition, Strand of Oaks will return to South Broad Street’s Boot and Saddle this December for three nights in a row: the storied Oaks Winter Classic, edition IV. This year, the shows take place Thursday, December 6th; Friday, December 7th; and Saturday, December 8th.

Unlike last year’s gigs, where Showalter hand-picked different openers each night, these shows will all feature Greenbelt, Maryland singer-songwriter Joe Pug — a full-circle moment, since one of Showalter’s first tours in the wake of Pope Killdragon‘s success was opening for Pug — as well as Carl Broemel of My Morning Jacket, who Strand of Oaks opened for at the Tower Theater in 2015. Continue reading →

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Strand of Oaks and Magnolia Electric Company will release a single as Goshen Electric Co.; listen to “The Grey Tower”

Goshen Electric Co. | still from video

This year, Tim Showalter of Strand of Oaks gets to step into the role of one of his heroes — singer-songwriter Jason Molina, who wrote profoundly moving music in aughties outfits Songs: Ohia and Magnolia Electric Company. After Molina passed away in 2013, Showalter wrote the epic “J.M.” in tribute to him, a central track on Oaks’ 2014 album HEAL, and this fall he teamed up with the surviving members of Molina’s band to tour Europe as Memorial Electric Co.

“There was such an intimate relationship with his music – it felt a lot deeper than just liking a song,” says Showalter of the experience of getting ready for these shows, and his fandom in general. “You live in these songs.”

Continue reading →

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Watch Strand of Oaks reimagine “Same Emotions” live

Strand of Oaks | photo by John Vettese for WXPN

While touring through Europe this summer with and festival hopping in Belgium, the Netherlands, and Montenegro, Strand of Oaks‘ frontman Tim Showalter teamed up with three amazing Dutch musicians for his EU backing band. Showalter and company transformed the 2014 HEAL cut, “Same Emotions,” and developed it from a vaguely new wave electronic jams into a face-melting rock track. With the help of Showalter’s Dutch companions, the track transforms into an expansive 6 and a half minutes, and was captured in video form on July 21st at the Sea Rock Festival in Kotor, Montenegro. Continue reading →

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Strand of Oaks’ Timothy Showalter joins Magnolia Electric Co. tribute to Jason Molina

Strand of Oaks | photo by John Vettese for WXPN

In the years following the death of iconic singer-songwriter Jason Molina, many artists have come together to pay tribute — namely, the Songs: Molina project, which was started by Molina’s bandmates from Songs: Ohia and the Magnolia Electric Co. Songs: Molina, a Memorial Electric Co. will tour Europe this fall, with the addition of a familiar local face — Strand of Oaks‘ Timothy Showalter.

Showalter is a longtime Molina fan — the Strand of Oaks song “JM” is named for the musician, and he’s been known to share the story of the only time the two met. Molina himself spent some time in Philadelphia recording his 2002 album Didn’t It Rain, and Philly’s Mike “Slo-Mo” Brenner played slide guitar on the album. Also on the tour is Molina biographer Erin Osmon, author of Jason Molina: Riding With The Ghost. Continue reading →

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The Week Ahead: The Posies, Strand of Oaks, King Britt, Inara George and more

XPoNential Music Festival | photo by Joe Del Tufo | deltufophotography.com

Let’s send out January in a big way, friends. The weather is unseasonably warm and we’ve got 24 concerts over the next week for you to choose between, centered in Philadelphia with a couple day trips to locales like Bethlehem and Ardmore. Dig in below, and happy concertgoing. Continue reading →

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Get Loose: Strand of Oaks takes Boot & Saddle on a journey for the 2017 Winter Classic

Strand of Oaks | photo by John Vettese for WXPN

In cased you somehow missed it, “Get Loose” is Timothy Showalter’s mantra of 2017.

Those two words have been used effusively by his band Strand of Oaks: it’s a lyrical refrain in “On The Hill,” it’s a command shouted from the stage and a catchphrase on social media to get fans hype for their tour; it appears on huge block letters on t-shirts at the merch stand. Hell, it’s all over the artwork to Harder Love, the companion LP to this year’s Hard Love that Philly fans picked up an early copy of at the third annual Winter Classic, Oaks’ three sold-out nights at Boot & Saddle earlier this month.

The spirit of the phrase is all about loosening oneself from external expectation, finding joy in the moment, living your life for yourself and those who you love most dearly. With those shows, however, “get loose” took on a different meaning for Showalter: he was loose of the band he’d been touring with all year and loose of their locked-in style of improv that, while dazzling, could eclipse the incredible songwriting at the core of it all; he was loose of the sets focused largely on 2017’s Hard Love — recently named one of our don’t-miss record of the year — sets that rarely included anything earlier than 2014’s HEAL.

The Winter Classic shows were Showalter, on stage by himself for the better part of three straight nights, performing different and deep-diving song selections each show — constructed with fan input, his setlists touched on cuts from all five Oaks studio LPs, including songs he hasn’t played in five-plus years (maybe ever?), with a recurring jam from the slated January release of Harder Love and a new song dedicated to his wife Sue.

He was loose and, admittedly nervous about the ordeal — there was nothing to hide behind, just Tim and his gregarious personality. And at the end of it all, that looseness made room for discovery and re-discovery, for audience and artist alike. Here’s what we heard and saw that weekend. Continue reading →

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Strand of Oaks releasing a collection of demos called Harder Love in January; listen to “Passing Out”

Strand of Oaks’ Harder Love | via Bandcamp

A good argument for arriving early to Strand of Oaks‘ three-night stand at Boot & Saddle this weekend: main man Tim Showalter will be selling limited edition vinyl copies of Harder Love — yes, you read that correctly, HardER. This is a new collection demos from the 2016 studio sessions for this year’s Hard Love.

The album comes out January 19th on Dead Oceans Records, and is limited to 500 copies. Continue reading →