Stark Folk Band
Old 3C

I didn’t expect to ever review, let alone, hear, another offering from Stark Folk Band. In line with 2000’s private-press jam as Happy Hour Astrology, Stark Folk Band’s debut came from the middle of nowhere—no frills anonymity that would likely never appear again. It was Brady Lee Burkett’s “country” album stocked in the bin, left to be discovered miles down the road. For Burkett and ghost guitarist Ryan Shaffer (when he visits the Blue Barn from California), the tranquil, misty mystic air of Yellow Springs, Ohio has sprung eternal. “I live here so I can make my own noise,” says “The Next Big Thing,” and given the prolific mutation of Stark Folk’s surprisingly quick sophomore record, the noise lasts all night and into Sunday evening. Well-Oiled, which is decidedly less folk, allows for hastier crunch times and suitably trades twang for a white-hot, heart of the sun, buzzing blur. “You Can’t Shake Me” is just as it sounds off the tongue, jerking and shredding ’60s hobo psych, sans the gloss and/or the spit current kids want to give it. Equally stomp-worthy is “Down to Dust,” like a farmhand Brian Jonestown Massacre were they way into Zuma.

Though on the surface Well-Oiled looks and smells casually normal (a little square even), the album soon spans off into myriad directions: primal and smoke-filled, as on “See the Light,” full of big trouble, heavy hokum like on “Been Around the Block,” or sullen and pointed, as in the civically charged “Dear Career Politician.” There’s a freak-streak in Burkett’s DNA and it is a intimately likable voice. Were there a hero in his wide-open bubble, it would be Neil Young, normal and square. While Young is squawking to us about his guzzler, Burkett mocks the “change” of the presidency or the burden of a spotlight. It’s soap-boxing all the same, but followed by the acoustic lament, “Looks Like a Bailout.” “Dear Career Politician” is a rare and effective display of disillusion and redemption. Thematically Well-Oiled is fed up and checking out, something that would be plain-faced in lesser bands.

There are misfires, but perhaps that’s just shaking the rust of the old skin of Stark Folk. The majority of Well-Oiled is anthems with fist-und-beer melodies gathered in front-porch revelry, lived out in the fantasy of Nuggets compilations, SST records (dig on Dinosaur and Meat Puppets), resting in capable hands, capable of giving it the perfect sack of reverb, feedback and acidic residue. Even at the apex of Burkett’s Guthrie/Ween corrosion, as found in the finale “(Ballad of Deep Green),” the vibes are emanating far beyond your average Midwestern folk-country hybrid, for of that Ohio, and likely Yellow Springs, have plenty.
Kevin J. Elliott