Strand of Oaks: “Shut In”

Photo by Dusdin Condren

“I was born in the middle, maybe too late / Everything good had been made.” This is the kind of idea that has been bouncing around in some form or another since rock-and-roll’s birth. Each generation thinks they’re the last, that all the creativity has been leeched out of the world. Timothy Showalter spent three albums under the name Strand of Oaks consciously living this lyric, curating himself as an obtuse folkie. These albums are good, but they’re hard to grasp; they hold you at arm’s length.

Sometimes you can find that creative spark not in your record collection but in your past self. Showalter turns inward on his fourth record, immediately apparent from the title: HEAL. He grew up in Indiana, obsessed with heavy metal and the Smashing Pumpkins; he turns to these first connections as a way to move forward with his life, which was marred by marriage problems and addiction. HEAL is a catharsis, allowing Showalter to exorcise his demons like the rock gods he grew up emulating in his Midwestern bedroom.

That lyric at the top comes from “Shut In,” a revealing barn-burner from HEAL. Nothing this year has sounded so raw, yet so electric. Showalter isn’t hung up on being completely original; consequently, he sounds completely like himself–a man who believes in the power of rock-and-roll.

–Art Levy

Catch Strand of Oaks at Lamberts tonight and live in Studio 1A tomorrow at 2pm.

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