One Track Mind: John Oates, “Pushing a Rock Uphill” from A Good Road to Follow (2013)

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Old-line Hall and Oates fans who may been less interested in John Oates’ more overtly country-inflected side trips of late, take heart: “Pushing a Rock Uphill” finds him returning to a tangy R&B vibe.

Of course, even at his most determinedly Americana, Oates was never far from the Philly-soaked roots that sparked so many signature moments with Daryl Hall — from “She’s Gone” to “I Can’t Go For That,” and every lip-smacking street-corner melding of rock and soul in between. But there’s a lot of road, indeed, between hanging out with Vince Gill and the familiar joys of “How Does It Feel to Be Back” — or even “Adult Education.”

As such, it wouldn’t be hard to imagine some of his longest-tenured fans wondering just when Oates would start to sound like his old self, or least the one that emerged after Hall and Oates’ more folk-tinged early work like Whole Oats.

“Pushing a Rock Uphill,” available today now through iTunes, is that moment. Oates sings with a dark resiliency, close and confidential, sharing a narrative that encourages even as it accepts the difficulties that life brings. Lace in an emotive backing vocal from Hall, and it could have been on any of their classic-era recordings.

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso has written for USA Today, American Songwriter, All About Jazz, and a host of others. Honored as columnist of the year five times by the Associated Press, Louisiana Press Association and Louisiana Sports Writers Association, he oversaw a daily section named Top 10 in the U.S. by the AP before co-founding Something Else! Nick is now associate editor of Ultimate Classic Rock.
Nick DeRiso
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