Twisted Roots & Twisted Highways is a folk and roots album, that draws on a lifetime of encounters with places, people, traditions, and magic.The songs are mostly originals, and co-writes/recordings created via Soundcloud collaborations ~ with an array of talented songwriters and musicians from around the world.
Chris O – Twisted Roots and Twisted Highways
CD review by Tony Smith – TN2536-90 – $20
Chris Okunbor has assembled an appealing variety of songs on this album.
While some of her earlier albums have been pure blues, these ten tracks show a maturing and development of styles and a strong command across genres.
‘Dirty Boots’, ‘Love this Land’ and ‘Kodama’ are very much tributes to the benefits that nature offers.
In these songs, Chris is wistful.
She notes the psychological therapy needed when feeling ‘blue and bruised’.
‘Kodama’ notes the special magic in ‘spirit trees’ and weaves together Japanese and Celtic knowledge.
Here is nature as ‘low cost medicine’.
There are a couple of ‘traditional’ songs.
‘I went to see my Molly’ is an Appalachian variant of the ‘William and Nancy’ type.
It begins with sad fiddle then progresses to a fine duet between Chris and Josh McAlexander about the bloke leaving for war.
‘The North Country’ is a result of Chris’ discovery of an elderly songbook in an antiques shop.
Excellent resonator is a feature of this catchy ballad.
The other tracks are mainly blues in the sense of being about relationships and yearnings.
‘You Mine’ is an upbeat song reminiscent of the early ‘railway’ styles of rhythm.
‘Nomad Strum’ uses the road as a metaphor for the journeys of life.
‘The Jackpot Blues’ features ‘walking’ riffs and is redolent of the 1920s genre.
‘Don’t push Babe’ is another song given extra power by duet style.
‘That’s the Way’ is a Led Zeppelin cover, but featuring Chris on whistles.
Good supporting musicians are behind Chris O here, but the setting out of the information on the sleeve was a little confusing.
Josh McAlexander (vocals, bass), Simon Watts (fiddle), Charlie McMahon (didgeridoo), Martin Kirwan (shruti box, sitar), Yutaka Hirai (spoken word, composition), Man on a Grill, David L. Graham, Jonnie Cook (composition, arrangement), Gratton (Kurt Plahna) and John Delk all contribute.
The writing credits are also scattered around but the effort to unravel it all is well worth it.
Chris has supplied a sheet with all this information on a song by song basis.
She also sets out the Audio Engineers for each track, and she features promptly on this technical side of the production as well as the artistic.
Most of these songs are written by Chris, sometimes in collaboration.
Besides generally leading the vocals and writing and arranging many of the songs, Chris plays a range of plucked strings, percussion and wind instruments and specifies makes and models in most cases.
Martin D15, Recording King Steel Resonator, Recording King Banjo, National O14 Steel Resonator, Merlin Dulcimer, beats, shakers, bodhran, harp, whistles and bamboo flute are all in Chris O’s kit.
There is a definite blues feeling right across these tracks.
The twisted roots might refer to the songs about nature but could easily be about Chris’ variants on the blues genre.
The twisted highways are about the adventure of life’s journeys.
Good variety and Chris’ skill on guitar, especially slide, make this album rewarding listening.