Hootenanny

Oakhurst injects roots rock with a heady dose of bluegrass.

Hot off the griddle, Dual Mono lifts Oakhurst's artisanship to new heights. With engineer Scott "Scooter" Smith and producer Matt Kowal of the Reals on board, the band recorded its official first full-length in three separate locations with two different drummers (Budin and Andrew Clapp). The unconventional approach began in an overcrowded, snowbound cabin near Walsenburg -- in the shadow of Greenhorn Mountain, fittingly enough.

"You're miking drums with a pot of beans cookin' next to your head and fires crackling, and all the rest of the string section is packed into this little tiny room," recounts Qualley of the sessions. "There was so much bleed between all the channels that you couldn't overdub if you wanted to. So we decided to play it nice and clean."

For the remainder of the album, Qualley and Hill took advantage of a friend's warehouse in Southwest Denver to cut certain tracks, while another pal's art-studio basement near the railroad tracks provided good acoustics for others. "The last thing we wanted to do," Qualley notes, "was go in and spend eighty dollars an hour on some studio and end up with something that sounds stiff."

The mighty Oak: Chris Budin (from left), Adam Hill, 
Johnny James Qualley, Zach Daniels and Adam 
Smith are Oakhurst.
Tony Gallagher
The mighty Oak: Chris Budin (from left), Adam Hill, Johnny James Qualley, Zach Daniels and Adam Smith are Oakhurst.

Virtually a live offering, Dual maintains a warm, analog feel from start to finish, alternating between acoustic shoot-outs ("Gypsies at JR's"), tender balladry ("Moonshine Still") and groove-oriented, electric blues funk ("Olivine"). Generous at fourteen cuts, it pays tribute to Virginia's Hackensaw Boys with a turbo-charged cover of "Dance Around," plus a breezy ode to the Hacks' banjo picker, Jimmy Stelling, aka the "Kooky Eyed Fox." Emphasizing the importance of lyrics and composition over any gratuitous special effects, Dual's impressive packaging, with artwork by Greg Carr, deftly captures Oakhurst with raw immediacy.

"I never thought I'd be doing this when I left college to come ride snowboards," Hill admits. "English was one of my weakest subjects. But now understanding how to tell a story comes a little more natural. Whether it's good or bad, I don't know -- it's mine. But it's a fun process."

"Songs are just like babies," Qualley adds philosophically. "They're born, and sometimes they never make it past infancy. Sometimes they become these wild teenagers. And other times they grow old. This song "Chili" is like a grandfather. We talked about putting it on the last record, but it just wasn't developed until now."

However the tunes materialize, Oakhurst certainly gives a crowd ample reason to cut a rug in a live setting ("You gotta bring your dancin' shoes -- and your hollow leg," Qualley quips). For Hill, though, the straight dope is derived from the simple joy of the songs themselves.

"Music should have been free from the get-go," he concludes. "Nobody's in this to worry about dollars. We just try to deliver the party every time. People clappin' and jumpin' and dancin' and hootin' and hollerin' -- that's all we ever asked for."

Well, that, and maybe a full house at the Appaloosa Grill every Thursday night.

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