Conny Ochs’s evolution may not be as dramatic as Bob Dylan’s or John Darnielle’s, but the folk artist shows a lot of growth on his fourth full-length. Doom Folk is easily his most musically involved album thus far as the sparse outside instrumentation seen on previous efforts is put to full use on here. Things aren’t too drastically different than what came before, but a heightened emphasis on variety results in Ochs’ liveliest and most accessible work to date.
None of the playing on Doom Folk will blow your mind, but a combination of smooth musicianship and warm production makes for a pleasant listen. The vocals and guitar remain in the spotlight, the former showcasing Morrison meets Cantrell-style croons while the latter put in a mix of acoustic strums and simple electric warbles. The rhythm section is pretty basic, consisting mostly of bare bones percussion and subtle bass fuzz, but their mere presence creates an energy that elevates the melodies and brings the blues and rock influences up to the forefront.
Going along with that, the songs go through a variety of moods and styles. “Dark Tower” and “Crash and Burn” start the album off on a somber yet upbeat folk-rock note, the latter featuring one of the album’s most memorable choruses, that returns with an almost life-affirming vengeance on “Oracle.” Elsewhere, “Drunken Monkey” and “It’s All Too Bright” have a quirky jive that recalls a cleaned-up Tom Waits, and I can get behind the Delta blues exercise on “Crawling.” There’s even room for acoustic guitar/vocal minimalism with “Moon” in particular offering a stripped down but memorable refrain.
A title like Doom Folk is more reflective of quality time with Wino than actual musical content, but Conny Ochs’s fourth album is easily his most well-rounded. While the focus remains on folk atmosphere, the energized musicianship truly does justice to the variety and pathos in his songwriting. It won’t break your heart as much as Jar of Flies or Blood on the Tracks, but it’ll be an excellent addition to your lazy Sunday playlist.
“Crash and Burn”
“It’s All Too Bright”