Strand of Oaks – Leave Ruin [Album Review]

by oz on April 16, 2009

Strand Of Oaks

Strand of Oaks is a bit deceptive as a moniker since the band is really just one man named Timothy Showalter. He’s an Indiana native that’s now living as a school teacher and school bus driver in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. He’s also a brilliant songwriter that has quietly released a stunning debut album called Leave Ruin.

The title of the album is autobiographical. Timothy came home one night to find his house burned down and all if his possessions turned to ash. He was forced to start over with a borrowed guitar, pen, paper and a devastating source of inspiration to tell his stories.

Showalter describes his sound as early Neil Young or Springsteen, but I immediately drew comparisons to modern day contemporaries – like a cross between Mark Kozalek (Red House Painters, Sun Kil Moon) and Jason Molina (Songs: Ohia, Magnolia Electric Co.). When I heard the opening of the first track, “End In Flames,” I was immediately reminded of the Red House Painters song, “Have You Forgotten.” It’s a beautiful song that layers on instrumentation as the song builds and repeats a chorus that can only be a reflection on his personal tragedy: “This is what it feels like to see the world in flames.”

The next song, “Two Kids,” moves away from the shoe-gazy Kozalek sound and starts moving into Molina territory with the introduction of the banjo and more downcast folk-Americana. From there, the album moves seamlessly from one breathtaking track to the next and culminates with the title track. Strand of Oaks spends most of the album reflecting on tough times, but leaves us with a hopeful sentiment about how things will get better. It’s a sentiment that’s good to hear these days.

With so many music submissions arriving in our inbox and mailbox, it was refreshing to discover Leave Ruin on eMusic by happenstance. I’d never heard of Strand of Oaks and now it’s an album I can’t pull myself away from.

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Strand Of Oaks – End In Flames

Strand Of Oaks, Live at The Nave:

Strand Of Oaks – Leave Ruin

Strand Of Oaks – Sister Evangeline

Strand Of Oaks – Daniel’s Blues

Strand Of Oaks – Sterling

Strand Of Oaks – Two Kids

Strand Of Oaks – End In Flames

Download the live tracks as a zip.

Video: Strand of Oaks – Two Kids

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Woody April 16, 2009 at 4:10 pm

An absolute stunner of an album that is made better by knowing the story behind it. When Oz originally told me about him, he said it was kind of like Bon Iver. I am not the biggest Bon Iver fan out there so I had low expectations going in but I was and continue to be floored by this album.

oz April 16, 2009 at 8:15 pm

That’s not entirely true. As I was downloading I read others that had compared him to Bon Iver. I don’t find their sound all that similar.

Drinking Buddy April 16, 2009 at 9:20 pm

Whoa. Love it.

Woody April 17, 2009 at 4:42 am

In fairness to me, I only listen to about half of what Oz says.

uwmryan April 17, 2009 at 8:52 am

awesome, glad you guys are digging him!

kristen August 6, 2009 at 7:52 am

Cant take this album out of my ears, it means a lot when I hear an album and know it will stick with me for years.

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