John Oates – Another Good Road (2015)

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John Oates’ solo career, slow to start and largely unnoticed for a time, caught fire recently when he dug deeper into his own roots — and, I think importantly, when he began engaging again with musical personalities on a scale commensurate with Hall and Oates.

Certainly, his long, wildly successful partnership with Daryl Hall made Oates’ case as a buttress for great art; he’s an endlessly adept sounding board, foil and partner in crime. But there must have been, and Hall’s guest-packed Daryl’s House project bears this out too, some small sense of unspoken confinement there, too. Whatever his motivations, the recent Good Road to Follow project — a sweeping testament to John Oates’ passion and aptitude across a dizzying range of styles — showed that matching Oates up against acknowledged masters like Vince Gill and Jim Lauderdale brought out the best in both.

The follow up Another Good Road, a live DVD/CD release due on January 20, 2015 via PS Records-Elektra Nashville, swings the focus squarely back onto John Oates as a performer. It also gives us new perspective on this exciting period of musical growth, via the bonus disc’s interviews with Oates and his more recent collaborators. He’s clearly sparked by all of this but, importantly, so were they.

Their appreciation for Oates — as a composer, as a singer and as a guitar player — provides a framing device for the sweetly ingratiating, one-take performance that makes up the bulk of Another Good Road. John Oates is better than you thought he was, better even than they thought he was. This concert project, quietly but insistently, makes the point.

Playing with an ace group of regular solo sidemen including Shane Theriot, Bekka Bramlett and others, Oates offers confidential and involving interpretations of the best moments from Good Road to Follow, along with a few tasty additions. “Let’s Drive” has a bluesier feel, while he digs deeper into the country inflections of “Lose it in Louisiana.” There’s a folky detour into “When Carolina Comes Home Again,” and some shotgun-shack blues via “Stack O’ Lee.” In between, Oates and Co. offer a slinky update of “Pushing a Rock Uphill” that’s even more R&B-steeped. Like Good Road to Follow, it’s all over the place — in a good way.

The centerpiece of Another Good Road is the new song “Close.” Featuring a swooning chorus, powered along by a sensual female vocal counterpoint, it finds Oates in a kind of front-porch reverie. Its easy-going feel reminds me of Delaney and Bonnie, which is fitting since those are Bekka’s parents, even as it serves as proof of his command of yet another roots-bound style.

Holding everything together is John Oates’ Curtis Mayfield-inspired coo, the only real constant on a roving journey through every dusty stop on the Americana trail. Oates, decades into his Hall of Fame career, has learned to use his voice in a far more intimate way than he’d have ever dared in the MTV era, and this song is — really, all of the songs on the superlative Another Good Road are — better for it.

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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